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A Bad Place to Be-Fiction by Lamont A. Turner
If the World Never Knows Our Names-Fiction by Craig Fishbane
I'm Not Antonio-Fiction by Garr Parks
George's Personal Big Bang-Fiction by Kenneth James Crist
When the Omen Follows You Home-Fiction by Alyson Tait
The Pie Room-Fiction by Dave Kunz
On the Matter of Hennessey-Fiction by Ed Nobody
Proud to Be a Pig-Fiction by Bob Ritchie
Marmalade and Mayhem-Fiction by Bruce Costello
Check Out-Fiction by Cindy Rosmus
The Stanton Harbor Grocery Massacre-Flash Fiction by Roy Dorman
Seizing Power-Flash Fiction by Tim Frank
Frog Huntin'-Flash Fiction by Gary Clifton
Best Friend Forever-Flash Fiction by Serena Jayne
Bus Stop-Flash Fiction by Jonathan Woods
Doing Without-Poem by R. Gerry Fabian
Another Day-Poem by Ann Marie Rhiel
Don't Say You'll Play the Game If You Don't Know the Rules-Poem by David Centorbi
Why I Stopped Being Me-Poem by John Sweet
Something About Her-Poem by Meg Baird
Only the Good-Poem by James Lilley
Bill's Otherworldly Cafe Across from Cafe Bizarro-Poem by Dr. Mel Waldman
Eating Catfish on the Bank of the Sankuru River-Poem by Daniel G. Snethen
Post Mortem-Poem by Daniel G. Snethen
Deer in the Headlights-Poem by Brian Rihlmann
I, Cartographer-Poem by Brian Rihlmann
I'll Paint You a Picture-Poem by Brian Rihlmann
beside wild roses-poem by ayaz daryl nielsen
sitting quietly-poem by ayaz daryl nielsen
lifetimes-poem by ayaz daryl nielsen
All the Way Home-Poem by Judith Partin-Nielsen
like a poem written-Poem by Judith Partin-Nielsen
So There-Poem by Judith Partin-Nielsen
Sugar Wolf-Poem by Judith Partin-Nielsen
Cartoons by Cartwright
Hail, Tiger!
Angel of Manslaughter
Strange Gardens
Gutter Balls
Calpurnia's Window
No Place Like Home
ALAT
Dark Tales from Gent's Pens

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Art by Kevin Duncan 2021

George’s Personal Big Bang

 

Kenneth James Crist

 

 

My name is Crank. Not really, no. I got that name on the police department long ago and it stuck. It had to do with a really large drug bust, a biker gang and meth. Long story, but that was it. I’m retired now, and I do all the shit most retirees do. And I also work some little projects. Things the cops can’t do.

The last time I needed some plastic explosive for one of my projects, I took some common window putty and packed it into a mold the same size and shape as a stick of Semtex. Semtex is some foreign-made shit, and very powerful. It is also very stable, and practically odorless. Like all plastic explosives, it is easily molded into shapes, and therefore it's great for making small devices. It also can be set off without a blasting cap. All it takes is a spark of the proper intensity, introduced into the explosive itself. I took my block of window putty and put it in a Ziplock bag and put it in my pocket and went looking for Marty Collins. Marty runs the property and evidence section at the police station.

I knew exactly where to find Marty, actually. He would be drinking his lunch at the same bar he had used for the last ten years, The Roll Call on Second and Main. Marty is a dedicated alcoholic, and probably the only lush I can say I have ever really admired. He has exquisite control. He can maintain a certain degree of drunkenness the way a diabetic can keep his blood sugar balanced, and he can walk that teetering edge for days. He is an alcoholic, but he's not trying to solve any problems with booze. He's just thirsty. All the time. And he's pretty much a mellow drunk. I doubt that he's been in a fight, or even an argument, in years.

Marty got pulled off the street years ago because of his drinking problems and they put him in a program, because he was a good cop, and got him dried out for a while, then, just to be on the safe side, they put him in property. He didn't stay dry long, but at least now he wouldn't get anybody hurt.

After "running into" Marty, and buying him a few, I walked back over to the property office with him and sat around and shot the shit about old times. Finally, he went to the can to take a dump, and asked me to mind the phone. I was only too happy. While he was occupied, I went to the "hot locker" and exchanged my window putty for a similar stick of Semtex. Just that simple. The explosive had already been analyzed for court, so there was no worry about the switch being discovered, and after that particular case was over, it would be destroyed.

Now, a little Semtex goes a long way. Like I said, it's powerful stuff. The project that I had in mind involved another friend, who ran the best damn pawnshop in the city. I won't tell this guy's name, but he was a swell fella, even if he was an Arab. And I have nothing against anyone because of race, color, religion, or whatever. In my book, you’re a good guy or you’re an asshole. Anyway, he called me one day after I retired and asked me to stop by. Over the years, he'd cut me some pretty sweet deals on guns and stuff, so I was happy to oblige.

When I got down there, he put his nephew to minding the shop and took me upstairs, where he and his family lived, an honor he'd never bestowed upon me in all the time I'd known him. Over tiny cups of thick, dark coffee and sweet rolls, he told me about a guy he called Big George the Greek. Real theatrical- sounding name. Anyway, this loser had been coming around for some time now, making my friend and everyone else in the area pay him protection, so nothing bad would happen to them or their business. At first, he would just shake them down for a few bucks a week, all friendly-like, and it was no big deal. But lately he was cutting himself in for a larger and larger percentage, and it was starting to hurt. Not just my friend, but a lot of other people in the area, too.

This guy made a lot of noise about his "mob connections," which I knew was bullshit. For one thing, the actual Cosa Nostra families have never found the Midwest to be very profitable. The cops aren't crooked enough for those people to run most of their rackets, and there aren't enough really big cities, where the population will support a large gang of thugs. The other reason I knew Big George the Greek was really Big George the Gasbag was because people who are really mob-connected don't go around telling everybody. Not if they want to stay alive. The word "Mafia," after all, means "silence."

So, I found out everything I could about ol' Georgie and started working on my plan.

 

 

Microchips are truly wonders of the modern age. Consisting of tiny circuits and transistors, they can accomplish very complex tasks, or very simple ones. In this case, I needed a way to set off a charge and kill a man, while being reasonably certain that it would harm no one else in the process.

I got my microchip from an old telephone answering machine that I had chosen to replace, because it had started cutting off messages before the hang-up. This was a cheap unit, made in Taiwan, but it still had some nice features. One of the things it would do was to allow the owner to call from any touch-tone phone and retrieve messages. You just called home, waited through the message, and after the beep, put in a three-digit code. This one was 613. I took out the microchip and tested it by hooking it up to the receiver in a phone, and to a multi-tester, to check current flow. Sure enough, every time it "heard" 613 on the keypad, it showed current flow through the secondary circuit. This was my remote control. This bomb would need no batteries, because it would use the power supply of the telephone itself. All I had to do was design the package and get it into a phone ol' Georgie would use.

House burglary is not nearly as difficult as most people think. If it was, there wouldn't be as many stupid assholes doing it every day as there are. One of the best burglary tools for popping house and apartment doors is a common two-pronged dandelion digger. The end is sharp enough to dig into the door jamb, and the shaft is sturdy enough to spring the door over in its opening enough to defeat the latch. Now if the homeowner is smart enough to have deadbolts with say, a one-inch throw or better, then you might as well just kick it in and risk the noise. Of course, there are always dogs and alarms to worry about, but there are still lots of unprotected homes out there to pilfer, if that's your inclination.

In twenty years of police work, one thing I did learn: If you're going to commit crimes, work alone. Most criminals get caught because they shot off their mouth to impress someone, or because someone they committed a crime with shot off their mouth. So the rules are: work alone, never admit anything, no matter what, and if you’re caught, never talk to the cops and always get a lawyer.

Georgie had a very common two-bedroom bungalow on Hyacinth street in one of the seedier areas of town. Knowing that the best time to do residence burglaries is in broad daylight, I started watching Georgie to get his routine down.

Not much to see, really. Turned out his wife worked to support his lazy ass, and when he wasn't out shaking down good working people, he was at a pool hall a few blocks from my friend's pawnshop. Little Wife left the house at seven-twenty every morning to be at her job, and one could see Georgie stagger out anytime from then till noon.

On the day I planted the device, I watched him leave at about nine-thirty, and as soon as he was out of sight, I pulled up in my truck, got out in my blue coveralls, and set an orange traffic cone in front and at the rear of my truck. I mean, what could a guy do to look more like some utility repairman, than set out cones? Then I got out a tool belt full of tools and strapped it on and went into the backyard. I went directly to the back door and knocked. You should always knock at least twice, and wait a minute or so, just to be sure that the house is empty. Burglars wind up becoming murderers all the time because they get in a house, get surprised, and panic.

Nobody answered my knock, and no dogs barked. While I was waiting for a response, I looked for signs of an alarm. No tape on the windows, no alarm company signs in the yard. It's funny how many thieves think that they can't be ripped off. Like they're in some kind of fraternity or something. Fraternity, my ass. Most thieves will rip off their mother, given half a chance.

Anyway, I felt good about my odds, so I cracked the door and went in. Once inside, I made myself stand just inside the door for one full minute by my watch. This wasn't just to listen to the house and to get used to its layout; it was also to let the old heart settle down from the adrenaline.

After the full minute, I walked quietly through the whole house, looking for telephones, but touching nothing. I reasoned that there would be one phone in the house that would be used more than any of the others, and that would be the one I'd booby-trap. Turned out the cheap bastard only had one phone, a wall type, hanging in the kitchen. Five minutes later the receiver was packed with Semtex and the trigger was hooked up. All it needed was to be off the hook and receive the correct code.

Don't let anyone tell you that the telephone company isn't part of Big Brother's network. The phone company computers log the source and destination of every phone call made in this country. The police, with or without a court order, can see these records. So if you have dirty work to do on the telephone, use a pay phone, never use the same one twice, and get away from it as soon as you're done. And don't leave prints.

I called Georgie from a pay phone in the biggest shopping mall in town at 7:35 the next morning. It wouldn't have been necessary to have any conversation with him at all, but in his final moments, I wanted him to know he'd stepped on his dick.

When he answered, he sounded sleepy. I said, "Hey, George. Are you awake?"

"Yeah, who's this?"

"This is the devil, George. Calling you home."

"Yeah, right. Is that you, Vinnie?"

"No, George. It's not Vinnie. It's not anyone you know, and you're not paying attention. For a guy that's about to die, you're not paying attention well at all."

"What the fuck're you talkin' about?"

Slowly and patiently, I explained it to him. "George, you fucked up. Let me explain it to you. You leaned on the wrong people, then to make matters worse, you told people you were with the Family. I understand you may have even named some names."

Silence now, only breathing, trying to figure it out, then: "I didn't name no names."

"That's because you don't really know anybody, Georgie. Say it."

"Say what?"

"Say you don't really know anybody in the Family, and then I'll give you a message."

Silence again, then a heavy sigh. "Okay, Okay. I really don't know anybody that's in the Family. Now what's the message?"

"613"

"What?"

"613, George. That's the message."

"What's it mean?"

"It means you're dead, George." And then I dialed it. There was an electronic shriek from the phone in my hand, then a dial tone.

By the time I walked through the mall, got back to my pickup, and turned on the police scanner, the dispatcher was putting out the call of an unknown explosion on Hyacinth. I switched over to the fire department "A" channel and as I drove home, listened to the rescue squad and first engine arrive and report no smoke or fire visible.

Semtex is a very clean explosive and will often use up so much oxygen when it explodes, that there will be no associated fire after the fact. I switched back to the P.D. channels, and just before I shut off the truck at my home, I heard the officers at the scene request the homicide team and coroner.

 A couple days later, I stopped by the pawnshop and had some of that black, bitter coffee the Arabs make, with the friend. He wanted to give me practically everything in the shop, he was so happy about Big George biting the big one, but I just accepted a heartfelt handshake and a hug. Anything more might be traced back to the pawnshop, and we can’t have that, now, can we?

Besides, what I do is fun, in a grisly sort of way and keeps me entertained in my old age. . . .






Kenneth James Crist is Editor Emeritus of Black Petals Magazine and is on staff at Yellow Mama ezine. He has been a published writer since 1998, having had almost two hundred short stories and poems in venues ranging from Skin and Bones and The Edge-Tales of Suspense to Kudzu Monthly. He is particularly fond of supernatural biker stories. He reads everything he can get his hands on, not just in horror or sci-fi, but in mystery, hardboiled, biographies, westerns and adventure tales. He retired from the Wichita, Kansas police department in 1992 and from the security department at Wesley Medical Center in Wichita in 2016. Now 76, he is an avid motorcyclist and handgun shooter. He is active in the American Legion Riders and the Patriot Guard, helping to honor and look after our military. He is also a volunteer driver for the American Red Cross, Midway Kansas Chapter. He is the owner of Fossil Publications, a desktop publishing venture that seems incapable of making any money at all. On June the ninth, 2018, he did his first (and last) parachute jump and crossed that shit off his bucket list.



Kevin D. Duncan was born 1958 in Alton, Illinois where he still resides. He has degrees in Political Science, Classics, and Art & Design. He has been freelancing illustration and cartoons for over 25 years. He has done editorial cartoons and editorial illustration for local and regional newspapers, including the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. His award-winning work has appeared in numerous small press zines, e-zines, and he has illustrated a few books. 




In Association with Black Petals & Fossil Publications 2021