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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 Noelle Richardson 2021



by James Blakey




Evegeny slipped the Markov nine-millimeter into the shoulder holster and shrugged on his sports coat. As he crossed the room, Irina ignored him, not lifting her gaze from the television. He stepped onto the expansive balcony, and a stiff breeze off the Atlantic greeted him. Below, the white sands of Jupiter Island reflected the scorching heat of the midday sun. He cleared his throat. “Mikhail, I would speak with you.”

Mikhail relaxed in a lounge chair, tapping away on his laptop. “Evegeny!” He beamed, shut the laptop, and rose to hug his brother. “I will make us drinks.”

Behind a well-stocked bar at the far end of the balcony, Mikhail mixed vodka with grapefruit juice into tall glasses filled with ice. He handed one to his brother. They turned to watch the breaking waves.

Evegeny frowned. “I am troubled by noises on the streets.”

Mikhail sighed. “If you insist on a conversation about the family business, then all the family should be present.”

Evegeny stifled a grunt. “You want to interrupt Irina’s shows?” Their sister cared for nothing but the latest installment of Real Housewives and the fashions and shoes on display at the Aventura Mall. “This is a discussion between men. You’ve ceded West Palm to the Jamaicans and given away the cocaine trade to the Albanians. Albanians, for God’s sake. They’re heathens!”

 “I apologize for not consulting,” Mikhail said. “But we’re making more money than ever. It was time to abandon high-profile, risky endeavors. People get shot. The public makes demands. The police come down hard.” His smile grew wide. “But with Medicare fraud, insurance fraud, everyone is paid: the doctors, the clinics, the patients. There are no bodies. No victims to complain. No one even suspects.” He raised his glass high. “America, truly the land of opportunity.”

Evegeny downed his drink and refilled it. His brother was always so sure of himself, but Father left Mikhail in charge, because he was the oldest, not the strongest. “No one doubts your inventive talents for making money. But it’s dangerous to show weakness in the face of our rivals.”

“Not weakness. Cleverness.”

“They may not perceive it that way. And to our competitors, perception is reality.”

Mikhail waved his hand dismissively. “Will you ever be satisfied? You have more money than you could ever hope to spend. What else do you want?”

Power. Respect. These are more important than wealth. That his brother couldn’t understand proved Mikhail had been corrupted by the very country he was corrupting. “I want control.”

Mikhail shook his head. “That is the wrong attitude. Forget the ego. Be smart.

Evegeny gulped his drink, set down the glass, and produced the pistol. “Now I am not smart?”

“Put that thing away.”

“Don’t tell me what to do.” His face flushed. Why must Mikhail be so willful? “You will be permitted to continue peddling your insurance schemes, but I am running things.”

“We can discuss this. But not at gunpoint.”

The alcohol fueled Evegeny’s rage. “No more talk.” He raised the weapon.

“Be reasonable.” Mikhail reached for the pistol.

“Enough!” Evegeny’s finger twitched. The gun fired twice. Mikhail’s shirt erupted in red, and he dropped to the floor.

“No!” Evegeny fell to his knees and checked for a pulse. Nothing. He cradled Mikhail’s head; empty blue eyes stared back. “See what you made me do, Brother? If only you weren’t so stubborn.”

He fought back tears and formulated a plan. He’d get the maid to clean up the mess and have Mikhail’s driver dispose of the body. Evegeny would explain that the staff worked for him, now. They would understand and do as they were told.

He booted up Mikhail’s laptop. Password protected. His phone, too. No problem. He knew experts who dealt in such matters.

 Taking on the Jamaicans would require plenty of men. He’d issue an ultimatum. Give them a we—

Gunshots erupted from behind. Evegeny’s body exploded in pain. He gasped for air, but it wouldn’t come. He collapsed on the floor. With great effort he lifted his head and saw Irina staring down at him with contempt. Evegeny tried to speak. All that emerged from his throat was a low gurgle.

“Thank you, Dear Evegeny.” His sister smiled cruelly. She kicked him in the ribs with the pointed toe of her zebra-patterned ankle boot and jabbed the stiletto heel into his chest. “I see we both had doubts about the direction of the family business.”

She pointed the gun at his head and fired.




James Blakey’s fiction has appeared in Mystery Weekly, Crimson Streets, and Over My Dead Body. His story “The Bicycle Thief” won a 2019 Derringer Award. He lives in suburban Philadelphia, where he works as a network engineer for a software consulting company. When James isn’t working or writing, he can be found on the hiking trail—he’s climbed thirty-eight of the fifty US state high points—or bike-camping his way up and down the East Coast. Find him at www.JamesBlakeyWrites.com.

Noelle Richardson comes from a relatively large family and has been illustrating and painting for about twelve years. She writes a little on the side, plays a couple of instruments and dabbles in tattoo design.

In Association with Black Petals & Fossil Publications 2021