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The Beetlemeyer Exhaltation_Fiction by Steve Carr
A Farmer's Tale-Fiction by James Kompany
Date with Yellow Mama-Fiction by Tom Barker
Sweet Spot-Fiction by Gary Clifton
Singers and Sinners-Fiction by Cindy Rosmus
Sleeping with Sharks!-Fiction by Pamela Ebel
The Long Shot-Fiction by Kenneth James Crist
Suds in the Bucket-Fiction by Elizabeth Zelvin
The Easy Job-Fiction by K. A. Williams
Think Tank-Fiction by Bruce Costello
Three Little Pigs-Fiction by Andrew Davie
Out of Time-Fiction by Steve Prusky
Hope-Flash Fiction by D. J. Tyrer
So Long, Sonny-Flash Fiction by Joe Surkiewicz
Katnip-Flash Fiction by Gay Degani
Twenty-Two-Flash Fiction by Wayne F. Burke
I May Be on My Way to Becoming a COVID Statistic-Flash Fiction by Paul Beckman
Night Poem-Poem by Christopher Hivner
jury's out on a motorcycle-Poem by Meg Baird
The Mauler-Poem by Harris Coverley
The Mob-Poem by Harris Coverley
Pandemic Noir on the Desolate Highway to Nowhere-Poem by Dr. Mel Waldman
Pandemic Noir Inside an Otherworldly Oceanic Dream-Poem by Dr. Mel Waldman
Illness Kills My Soul but Poetry Comes to Save My Mind-Poem by Bradford Middleton
Your Television Sucks-Poem by Bradford Middleton
50 Quid Down the Drain, or a Night of Delinquent Savagery-Poem by Bradford Middleton
Blue-Poem by Thomas Zimmerman
Fighting Off the Wise-Poem by Thomas Zimmerman
Horses in the Dark-Poem by Thomas Zimmerman
Contents of the Attic Trunk-Poem by John Grey
The Dead Man to His Heirs-Poem by John Grey
Holding Out for a Rainbow-Poem by John Grey
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

Gary Clifton: Sweet Spot

Art by Hillary Lyon 2022



by Gary Clifton


“Listen up,” Flaherty said soberly. He motioned for help in holding the sketch he’d spread onto the hood of the unmarked Dodge. They’d gathered just before midnight on the back parking lot of the church of something or other on the far east side. The sharp December north wind relentlessly found any leak in the clothing of the half dozen plain clothes cops huddled around.

“We know from last night this punk prick is a shooter. Snitch just come out and said Thompkins is stoned and conked out in this rear room.” He pointed to the crude map. “That don’t mean he’ll stay that way. Like to have SWAT out here, but as y’all know, they’re tied up on that barricaded nut case on Second Avenue. Gotta couple uniforms comin’ out, instead.”

“Hell, Flaherty, we can handle this guy,” said a detective.

The wind whipped the lapels of Flaherty’s heavy coat. He pulled up the hood. “Yeah, but don’t forget, this guy beat his mother to death with a ball peen hammer when he was thirteen because she wouldn’t give him money to buy a fudgesicle. Parole system keeps turnin’ the mu’fucker loose.”

Bennie Ray Thompkins, twenty-four, with a three-page sheet and two trips inside, had gunned down the Vietnamese owner of a convenience store eight blocks away the previous evening. Security cameras had been Bennie Ray’s undoing in this case. Identification was positive.

A marked squad car rolled up. Two officers got out, zipping their jackets. Instead of the usual one cop, one car policy, a training officer with a rank rookie aboard had been assigned. Manpower shortages often resulted in T.O.’s as young as their early twenties monitoring a twenty-year-old.

Flaherty and Detective Sheena Easton both recognized the pair. They had watched several games of the police league autumn basketball tournament a month before. The two young officers were big, black, and outstanding athletes.

The driver recognized both homicide detectives. “Hey, folks, ya’ll getting’ off the desk for a little real police work?” he laughed. “I’m Willie Jackson and this mope is my hopeless trainee, Darius Washington.”

In standard southern police etiquette, they shook hands all around. Washington, robust and good natured, flashed a toothy grin, showing a single gold tooth. He quipped, “Glad to make the varsity.”

Sheena smiled in the darkness. Washington was just a big overgrown kid full of energy who would go far in the cop world or in anything else he attempted.

Flaherty said, “Jackson, you cover the back. No door, only windows, but he could jump. Washington, you come with us to the front. Just sorta lay back. We just need a uniform present so this redneck toad can’t claim he didn’t know we were cops.”

Jackson disappeared around a corner.


They mounted the apartment stairs as quietly as possible. Washington pushed ahead and kicked the door. The doorframe crashed inside onto the floor. In the flickering illumination of flashlights, Bennie Ray Thompkins, far from asleep, rushed down a hallway waving a .22 revolver. Lowering his head, he butted Flaherty to the floor, then fired a shot which, incredibly, hit no one. Washington bear-hugged the fugitive and tossed him into a corner. As Thompkins landed, he fired another wild shot. The glut of cops instantly had Thompkins disarmed and face down in handcuffs.

“Anybody hurt.” Flaherty barked. Mumbled negative replies from around the room resulted. “Let’s toss the place. Might find God knows what.”.

Suddenly, Washington gasped, “All the excitement is making me sick. I’m gonna barf or something. I gotta sit down.” He flopped on a battered sofa, his head lolling backward awkwardly.

Flashlight examination showed his left low topped boot was quickly filling with deep crimson blood. Someone slit his trousers. They rolled him on his stomach. The last tiny, errant .22 round had found the artery in the back of his knee. Washington was already unconscious. Sheena called 911.

Cold, blind panic followed as belts, a necktie, and a curtain cord were attempted as tourniquets accompanied by mouth to mouth, profanity, prayer, and death threats against Thompkins.

Washington, big, and full of life, was dead in less than three minutes. Jackson rushed in and instantly burst into tears. He sat beside Washington, holding his cold hand briefly, then stumbled out.

EMT’s rolled up downstairs. Sheena, standing in the doorway, saw them crawl past Jackson, slumped on the lower steps.

The lieutenant arrived. Sheena watched him follow the EMT’s past Jackson without speaking.

The lieutenant caught Flaherty’s eye. “What the fuck went down?” he growled.

Flaherty and the Lieutenant spoke quietly for several minutes before the Lieutenant turned away. “Shooting team is on the way out,” he said softly.

Thompkins, handcuffed on the floor, sneered, “Offed me a fuckin’ cop. Gimme a chance and I’ll do some more of you mu’fuckers.”

A cop kicked Thompkins in his ribs, eliciting a cry of pain. Then Flaherty gave him two in the guts. Thompkins gasped for air.

The lieutenant, an old timer, looked away. Knowing what he didn’t see he couldn’t report, he went back out onto the landing.

Sheena stepped out onto the landing to hold the door as EMT’s manhandled Washington’s big frame out on a gurney. Protocol required that Washington be transported to County General to allow a physician to declare the official cause of death. She squeezed past the gurney, coming down ahead of the sad procession to where Jackson sat sobbing. The icy wind seemed to increase as she picked her way through trash and debris on the steps.  “Jackson, you gotta scoot over, kid.”

One of the EMTs said, “He’s fine, we can make it.”

Sheena put a hand on Jackson’s shoulder as the two straining men boosted the gurney over him.  “Jackson, is there anything I can do?” she asked in hopeless fury.

“Good God,” Jackson sobbed. “We were gonna go Christmas shopping when we got off in the morning. Darius and his wife have a new baby. Mother of God, I guess I’m gonna have to go talk to her.”

Sheena stood in the cold, searching for words to offer to accompany Jackson to visit Washington’s wife. The lieutenant walked down and said, “Jackson, I’ll drive us to see Washington’s wife. Sheena, you stay here until the lab squints show up.”

Lost in tears, Sheena spat, “God, where the hell were you?”

The lieutenant nodded. 

Jackson didn’t look up.

Gary Clifton, forty years a cop, has been shot at, shot, stabbed, lied to and about, and often misunderstood. He currently lives on a dusty north Texas ranch, where he doesn’t give a damn if school keeps, or not. Clifton has published approximately 120 short fiction pieces, including upwards of fifty in Bewildering Stories Mag. He currently has three novels available through Amazon and other outlets: Nights on Fire, Murdering Homer, and Dragon Marks Eight. He blogs at bareknucklethoughts.org.

Hillary Lyon is an illustrator for horror/sci-fi and pulp fiction websites and magazines. She is also founder and senior editor for the independent poetry publisher, Subsynchronous Press. An SFPA Rhysling Award nominated poet, her poems have appeared in journals such as Eternal Haunted Summer, Jellyfish Whispers, Scfifaikuest, Illya’s Honey, and Red River Review, as well as numerous anthologies. Her short stories have appeared recently in Night to Dawn, Yellow Mama, Black Petals, Sirens Call, and Tales from the Moonlit Path, among others, as well as in numerous horror anthologies such as Night in New Orleans: Bizarre Beats from the Big EasyThuggish Itch: Viva Las Vegas, and White Noise & Ouija Boards. She appeared, briefly, as the uncredited "all-American Mom with baby" in Purple Cactus Media’s 2007 Arizona indie-film, "Vote for Zombie." Having lived in France, Brazil, Canada, and several states in the US, she now resides in southern Arizona.  https://hillarylyon.wordpress.com/

In Association with Black Petals & Fossil Publications 2022