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Phantom Pain-Fiction by Phillip Thompson
I'm a Fat Policeman-Fiction by William Kitcher
The Mass-Fiction by Rick McQuiston
Circle Quirk-Fiction by John J. Dillon
Every Night I Tell Him-Fiction by Bobby Mathews
Closure-Fiction by Kenneth James Crist
All That Glitters-Fiction by Bruce Harris
Klepto-Fiction by Cindy Rosmus
Big Nasty-Fiction by J. B. Stevens
Pendelton Products, Inc.-Fiction by Michael Dority
The Apprentice Thug-Fiction by A. Kanach
The Invitation-Fiction by Michael Steven
Your Time is My Time-Fiction by Walter Giersbach
Charity Begins at Home-Fiction by David Hagerty
Stay on the Path-Flash Fiction by Daniel G. Snethen
Killer's E-Mail-Flash Fiction by Andrew Ricchiuti
The Family Business-Flash Fiction by James Blakey
Weird Reasons to Be Grateful-Flash Fiction by Dini Armstrong
The Disappearance of Snethen-Poem by Daniel Snethen
Boom FM-Poem by Mark Young
Dwindling Knight-Poem by Michael Keshigian
Landlord-Poem by Michael Keshigian
A Day-Poem by Marc Carver
Idiotka-Poem by Marc Carver
Kent Railway Station-Poem by John Doyle
Jennifer-Poem by John Doyle
The Door in the Old House in Bizarro County-Poem by Dr. Mel Waldman
The Season of the Apocalypse-Poem by Dr. Mel Waldman
A Boy in a Graveyard-Poem by John Grey
Poem by the ManWho was Shot by His Wife-Poem by John Grey
The House on Wellington Court-Poem by John Grey
Close Your Eyes-Christopher Hivner
Say My Name-Poem by Christopher Hivner
When the Sun Turns to Sorcery-Poem by Christopher Hivner
Fading Twilight Sky-Poem by Ayaz Daryl Nielsen
Landlocked in Dry Dock-Poem by Ayaz Daryl Nielsen
Like a Child's Drawing-Poem by Ayaz Daryl Nielsen
As a Dark Shadow-Poem by Ayaz Daryl 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 Lonni Lees 2021

Big Nasty

By J.B. Stevens

Getting his brother out of jail for Kazinski’s murder was not going to be simple. The evidence was strong, and Marvin didn’t have an alibi.

But Hank couldn’t stop. Marvin’s wife and daughter needed him. The death penalty was on the table and Marvin’s sentencing hearing was coming up fast.

Hank had to form a plan.

Hank spent the morning scratching up a piece of paper, plotting out the situation, and trading text messages with Marvin’s defense lawyer.

The lawyer wanted Hank to focus on taking care of Marvin’s family. Marvin’s wife wanted Hank to figure out the truth before it was too late.

Hank gathered the hand-written notes, sat down at his computer, and hit up some search engines. He was able to track down some of the Kazinski’s social media. There had to be something in there that would help.

Most of it was set to private, but what was public showed a lot of travel to Thailand and Brazil. Hank recognized working girls from a mile away, ever since his time in the Army and as a cop.

The pictures, arrest history, and online presence indicated Kazinski liked to pay women for their time. That made Hank think of extortion. A man with a lot to lose and sexual secrets is always risking blackmail. Blackmail can lead to threats, and threats can lead to murder.

Kazinski’s house came up in a white pages listing. Hank located the place on a real-estate website. The home was far too nice for a local bank’s IT guy to afford. It had a heated pool, a theater room, a gym, and sat on twelve acres.

Kazinski had a lot of money to spend, but the fund’s source was not clear. Hank found no evidence of family money and Glassdoor showed that the bank IT job paid on the low end of average.

Kazinski enjoyed his vices and had the money to indulge them.

Hank ruminated a minute and decided he needed go where the prostitutes plied their trade, Savannah’s seedier motels. His time as a Deputy U.S. Marshal, before that career crashed and burned, ensured he knew where all of the city’s underground types operated.

Hank opened the wall-safe and grabbed his Glock 26 nine-millimeter pistol. It was the company’s smallest double stacked weapon at six and a half inches long, four inches tall, and an inch wide. It held a ten-round magazine with one in the chamber. As a striker fired gun the trigger pull was the same, every time.

Hank carried an extra seventeen-round magazine in his left front pocket, giving him a total of twenty-eight chances to solve any problem.

He was surgical with the gun.

Hank stored the weapon empty. After taking it out he loaded it. He pressed the slide slightly back and saw the glint of a Federal Hydra-Shock round in the chamber. The nine-millimeter bullet expanded when in hit flesh and left a huge wound channel. It was extremely effective. He put the Glock in a leather holster on his left ankle.

The pistol wasn’t his only preparation. He had practiced boxing three times a week for the past decade. Since he was a smaller guy he liked to really know how to fight.

The art kept him ready in case he ever needed to defend himself and his Glock wasn’t the right choice. His messed-up foot from back in Iraq gave him some grief in the gym, but he never stopped training.

In his right front pocket went a knife, four zip-ties, and a thick stack of twenty-dollar bills.

He put on a plain t-shirt flecked in paint, canvas work pants, and some beat up leather work boots. A trashed Atlanta Braves baseball hat completed the look.

Hank hopped in his Ford Bronco and headed to a no-tell motel. A loose plan was forming. When he was a Marshal, he seemed to find a fugitive at this place once a month. He knew a lot of working girls hung out there.

Driving from his cabin out in the country to the Day’s Inn on the 1000 block of Abercorn was like going from Mayberry to Somalia.

Hank felt his senses prick up. Suspicious eyes followed him as he rounded the corner into the parking lot. It felt like he was back in the war.

Hank shut off his truck and waited, letting the location breathe and settle. Everywhere has an ecosystem. Hank wanted to get a feel for the motel’s before entering.

He watched a few hand-to-hand drug deals. There were some couples entering and leaving rooms. After a few hours he had a solid sense of what was going on. Two lookouts were posted up for the prostitution. Two were for the drug deals. There was an old woman tending to the worker’s kids, the little ones played in a dirt lot near the parking lot.

He had to earn the lookout’s trust, get access to the girls, and get one to spill about Kazinski, if she even knew the guy. The odds were stacked against him, but he needed the info, and this was the only place he could start. Ignoring his bubbling stomach and the sweaty palms, he steeled his reserve. The nervousness worked with his cover. It made him look like any other new John. 

Hank exited his truck. He walked through fast food wrappers, past beat-up plaster walls, and up to the eastern-most prostitute lookout. Hank’s head was down and his hands were in his pockets. His chest hammered and adrenaline flooded his blood stream. The smell of human waste and cigarette smoke filled his nostrils. Trap music lightly tickled the air.

“Yo,” the lookout said. “What’s up cracker, what you want?” He was small with stained teeth.

Hank looked up and made eye contact. Hank recognized the man… but from where?

The lookout stared Hank down, hard. The lookout’s eye’s narrowed and his face became concrete. Recognition flashed.

“Five-O,” the lookout yelled to the entire motel. Then he turned and sprinted to the back of the building. Hank watched him drop a small baggie of crack and throw a knife.

“Wait, I’m not a cop anymore. I just like to party.” Hank said to the runner, laughing to himself at how insane the comment was. Hank turned and saw the entire area was a ghost town. Only grandma and kids remained.

“Seriously,” Hank said. “I’m just a big fan of the call girls. Not a pig.”

When he got back to his truck he saw the front driver’s side tire was slashed.

After putting on the spare he made his way to the Alamo Plaza on Bay Street. Hank readied himself for the headache that was about to come. Second time’s the charm… he hoped.

Pulling in, he observed a similar environment. Lookouts were in place, but he only saw three. Also, they seemed to be covering both the pimps and drug dealers. Seemed smart on them for consolidating security. An effective business tries to keep overhead low.

After watching for a couple hours Hank approached the western-most watchman. As he walked up, he took the time to make sure he didn’t recognize the guy from the past. The fella looked young, about fifteen. He was basketball-tall and gangly.

“What’s up dog? Need a little somethin?”

The kid’s voice was smooth and kind. It felt good when it hit the ear. He should be on the radio or working voice-over in Hollywood, not guarding crack and hookers in Savannah.

Hank’s nervousness shone through. He didn’t try to hide it. He was a horrible actor. The U.S. Marshals never let him work undercover.

“Um… yea… hi. I, uh, wanted to talk to a girl,” Hank said.

“Chill out. You seem sketch as hell. This ain’t no thing,” the kid said. “I got you. What kind of girl you want?”

“Asian… I guess,” Hank said, remembering Kazinski’s preferences.

“This is Savannah. We got Chocolate or Vanilla.”


“You want a crack head or a meth head?”

“I’m confused. If Asian isn’t an option, can I get a white girl?”

“Meth head it is. Head over to room seventeen. My girl Betty is in there.”

The watcher gestured towards the room, looked down at his phone, and sent a text.


“Now you only gonna see Betty. But just so you know, Betty got friends. Some real hardcore pipe-hittin brothers. Betty says the magic word and these boys are going to get medieval on you. Understand?”

“Yes sir.”

“Also, I know I sound all friendly, but don’t let that fool you. I don’t play. You do me wrong and it won’t work out so well.”

“Got it.”

“Aight, let me see your dick.”

“What? I thought I was going to see a lady.”

“I ain’t sucking dick,” the watcher said. His voice was soft and kind. “What I look like, a little sweet boy?”

“I’m confused.”

“No cop is going to whip out his dick in the middle of a parking lot.”

“I imagine not.”

“But some horny John will.”

“Makes sense.”

“So, let me see your dick.”

Hank laughed inside. His dick had been out in many parking lots on many continents. He unzipped and showed off the goods. He swayed back and forth. A smile crossed his face. Hank made a mental note to kill Marvin if this all worked out.

“That’s a good cracker. Ya’ll crazy as hell. Time to go meet your date. Give me twenty dollars. Once you get in the room give Betty forty more.”

Hank reached in his pocket and did as he was told. He fished out exactly three bills. He didn’t need anyone seeing the wad of cash. After paying, Hank went over and knocked on room seventeen’s door.

“Hey daddy. Come on in,” a voice said from inside the room.

Hank pushed the door and stepped inside. A sheet over the window filtered the light into a piss-yellow glow. It smelled like a gym locker room and axe body-spray. He could taste the sadness. He walked over and gave her the cash.

Betty sat on a tired bed. Her age was impossible to determine, but the meth had not been kind. Her skin was translucent. She wore an ill-fitting emerald nightie.

 “Hey daddy. Little birdy told me you wanted a good time.”

She didn’t make eye contact. There were track marks in both arms. A smoking glass pipe was on the table in the corner.

“A man likes to feel good,” Hank said.

“I’ll make your toes curl, sweetness,” Betty said.

Hank had to get this encounter moved to an interview fast. Betty stood and started to take off her lingerie.

“Betty, how would you like to make sixty more dollars?”

Her eyes stitched together and she frowned.

“I’m not into any kinky stuff.”

“I just want to talk.”

 “About what? I can do dirty talk, but you still got to pay full price.”

Hank pulled out his smart phone and tapped up a picture of Kazinski.

“Do you know this guy?”

She looked at the photo. Hank saw recognition in her face.

“I don’t talk about my friends with anyone, Sugar. You might as well call me Vegas.”

“What? Call you Vegas?”

“Yup. Cause what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.”

Hank laughed out loud. He knew it was time to cut to the chase. He reached into his pocket and pulled out his entire wad of bribe money. It was approximately five hundred dollars, all in twenties. Betty’s eyes got wide.

“Ok, Vegas, how much is a little information going to cost me?”

Hank heard the room’s door. Turning he saw a large man lumber in. The visitor was a foot taller than Hank, fat, frowning, and wore sunglasses. He was holding a chrome pistol Hank recognized. The Desert Eagle .50 caliber. A hand cannon.

“Big Nasty,” Betty said, “I got this on lock. Scoot on out of here, Sugar.”

“Naw girl,” Nasty said while turning towards Hank. “Time for you to shut up. I got questions. What you really doin here, cracker?”

Hank took a step backwards and looked left and right. The only exit was the window and the door. Nasty was in front of both.

“What are you getting at, Nasty? I’m not sure I understand.” Hank said. “O, and let me tie my shoe.”

“Wonder bread, you’re asking questions about stuff that don’t concern you. You’re asking questions about that dead man on the news. You’re hassling my girl instead of paying my girl. Time is money. You’re wasting both. That’s going to cost.”

Hank’s right hand slipped underneath his pants. He unsnapped the holster and gripped the Glock. It felt like home.

“So, cracker, how about you show me that stack of cash you playing with,” Nasty said.

The fat gangster pointed the Desert Eagle at Hank’s head.

Hank looked at the gun and time slowed. His hearing became muffled and the edges of his vision blurred. His heart rate spiked. Somewhere on the edge of reality he noticed Betty slink out of the room.

Hank kept looking down.

“Well, Nasty, it’s like this. They say my brother killed that guy on the news. I just want to get to the bottom of it. I’m not looking for trouble. We can work something out.”

Hank felt sweat roll down his spine. It was cold and slow. He was still kneeling and squeezing the pistol.

“It’s already worked out,” Nasty said. “Give me that stack and walk away.”

“That’s it?”

“Hopefully I don’t smoke you.”

“I’m going to take that deal.”

“All right, cracker, stand up and walk.”

Nasty slid left. He shifted the gun to his other hand and reached out for Hank’s cash. The movement cleared the path to door.

Hank took a deep breath. He flicked out with his left hand and swatted away the Desert Eagle. From the crouch he exploded towards the open door. He flew out of the room while drawing and gripping the Glock.

He slid into the breezeway on his right side and kicked the door closed. Ten feet to his right was a set of red-brick stairs.

Hank’s mind screamed: Move. Get away from where Nasty would aim. Hank crawled into the dusty stair-well. The knuckles on his right hand were scuffed up and bleeding. He was still holding the Glock.

As soon as the door shut Nasty screamed, and started a string of words. With every word he fired a round.

Hank felt a change in air pressure. He pressed himself against the bricks and focused on remaining calm.

Bang. “Piece”

Bang. “Of”

Bang. “Trash”

Bang. “Loser”

Bang. “Scum”

Bang. “Cracker”


“O hell.”

Nasty’s gun was empty.

 Hank peeked out around the corner of the stair-well. The air was smoky with a pink tinge from the impacted bricks.

There was an explosion of cheap particle board and the large gangster stood yelling on the balcony.

Hank aimed his Glock. The red fiber optic dot rested on Nasty’s sternum.

“Drop the pistol,” Hank said.

Nasty pressed his gun’s magazine release and dropped the empty. He reached into his back pocket pulling out a fully loaded seven rounder. He slammed it into the handle and reached for the slide release to put a round in the chamber.

Hank focused on his gun’s front sight. He pressed the trigger straight to the rear. The first shot broke. As soon as the sight returned Hank squeezed again. As the criminal fell Hank fired two more rounds.

Four shots in the blink of an eye.

Nasty lay still in front of the hotel room. Blood started to pool. Hank heard Betty screaming.

Hank counted four holes in Nasty. The gangster was bleeding from the stomach, left shoulder, right thigh, and gun hand. Nasty began to rattle.

Hank kept his Glock aimed in and walked over. He kicked the Desert Eagle away from the pimp’s hand.

“You done now, cracker,” Nasty said. “My people gonna put a hit out. Then they gonna put a root on you. Got you twice. Bitch.”

“I think your girl Betty’ll call the ambulance. I don’t think any of those wounds will kill you. So…”

“You’re done. This isn’t over.”

Hank wasn’t sure what to do. He had never shot someone while not on government business.

“Ok…” Hank said. “I guess see you later?”

Nasty didn’t respond, he just laid there struggling to breathe. Hank considered first aid, but didn’t want to risk catching whatever blood-borne diseases Nasty surely hosted. Hank reached into the hotel room and grabbed a small plastic trash can. He placed it upside down over the Desert Eagle. Then he picked up the four brass 9mm casings from his Glock.

Hank left quickly. The last thing he wanted was to be stuck in the cell next to his brother.

He went the long way home, checking to make sure no one was following him. Halfway back he stopped in a Piggly-Wiggly Grocery Store’s parking lot, rolled down the windows, and called Marvin’s defense lawyer.

After Hank finished hiring the lawyer for himself, he called Erica.

It was all going to work out.

As Hank turned off the phone he heard a smooth and kind voice call out over his left shoulder.

Marvin never left the jail.

J.B. Stevens lives in the Southeastern United States with his wife and daughter.

His writing has been featured in Mystery Tribune, Noir Nation, Criminal Element, Tough Crime, Out of the Gutter, Close To The Bone, Thriller Magazine, and other publications.

He is a veteran of the Iraq war where he earned a Bronze Star. Prior to the war, he was an undefeated Mixed Martial Arts Fighter. J.B. graduated from The Citadel.

He can be found online at twitter.com/IamJBStevens and jb-stevens.com

Lonni Lees is a multi-award-winning writer in both fiction, nonfiction, and poetry.  Her stories appear in Hardboiled magazine, Yellow Mama, A Shot of Ink, Shotgun Honey, Black Petals, Einstein’s Pocket Watch, All Due Respect, and in the anthologies Deadly Dames and More Whodunits. Among her numerous writing awards over the years, she has award-winning stories in Felons, Flames, and Ambulance Rides, Battling Boxing Stories, and her published short story collection, Crawlspace. Broken won first place and is her 4th published novel. Her first novel Deranged won the PSWA First Place award for best published novel. Her next novel, The Mosaic Murder, was followed with a sequel, The Corpse in the Cactus, which won First Place and was published in the U.S. and UK. She won several other writing awards for her short stories, including Grand Prize.


 She received both art and a nonfiction Creative Writing Awards from NLAPW, California South branch, an organization of women writers, artists, and composers, and she served as President from 1982–1984. She is a current member of Sisters in Crime, PSWA, and Arizona Mystery Writers, where she was the first writer to win two consecutive awards in their annual short story contest.


 Twice Lonni was selected as Writer-in-Residence at Hedgebrook, a writer’s retreat on Whidbey Island. After living in four states and visiting many countries, she’s settled in Tucson, AZ. She fills her spare time showing her art at WomanKraft Gallery, reminiscing on all her travel adventures, illustrating stories for online magazines, and dreaming up new tales to tell.                                    

In Association with Black Petals & Fossil Publications 2021