Assistant Editor On Board!

TFFO writer Tom Pitts is the new TFFO editorial assistant at Out of the Gutter Online! Click here to welcome him to the operation!


Guidelines and Submission Form
Excellent pulp writer's resource at the newly-launched Out of the Gutter Online. The Flash Fiction Offensive has made the move and will publish there from now on, but this site, and the incredible archive built up over the past 2.5 years, will remain, with some of the greatest hits being periodically highlighted as "Yellow Pellets" is being featured right now.

The heroic David Barber has handed off flash fiction editorship to his comrade, the fearless Joe Clifford. Do Joe a favor and give him your toughest, smartest work so he can hit the ground running and make the new Flash Fiction Offensive a great place for up-and-comers and proven heavy-hitters to hone their skills and get valuable feedback.

Out of the Gutter Online will also feature regular reviews from "Girl in the Gutter" and John Jasper Owens, the usual off-color Gutter laughs, and a short fiction department to compliment TFFO, edited by Court Merrigan.

Guidelines and Submission Form
Once it's underway the Bareknuckles Pulp Fiction Department will publish one story per week between 1,000 and 3,000 words, and you know what we want: "well-written, fucked up stuff." If you need that clarified, go here. Court is reading subs right now and welcomes your contribution.

And, as if that's not too much already, there will also be a "Big Story" feature, edited by Matt Louis. Details on that coming soon.

And, if you can handle more, the material published at Out of the Gutter Online will be distilled down to the hard core of grit and pulp with the essential pieces of writing put out as regular print and ebook volumes. All contributors are eligible for this incomparable honor, so step up and get involved.

And, if you're completely insatiable, look for a contest or two to be announced this week. Something to do with skulls and brains....

May Guest Writer - Matthew C. Funk.

This months Guest Writer needs very little introduction.  His work has appeared in almost every crime/pulp e-zine on the net.  If you've never come across his stories before then you really must be surfing the e-zine circuit with your eyes closed.

He's a fine writer with great stories to tell.  Without further ado.....

Not Like Other People by Matthew C. Funk.

It didn’t take her corpse to prove it. They always knew they weren’t like other people.

Ken knew it from the moment he spotted Sherry. He spotted her, hair a blond fire atop her head, giggling with her glancing girlfriends at Carraba’s. He sidled over in his off-the-rack suit and set eyes on her that shone with want.

She looked back like she had been waiting to be looked at like that her whole life. That told him all he needed to know.

It was the other things too, shared over round upon round of appletinis. The way her eyes kept diving down as if seeking a table to hide under. The upturn of her head, inviting his hand to her neck. The dare in her smile and the white piping of scars on her arms.

Sherry wasn’t like anyone Ken had met.


Sherry spent the following work week playing Ken over in her mind like she had memorized her multiplication tables: The majestic set of his shoulders. Those butterfly-jar eyes. The lips that would bend just a little, enough to promise a joke that could laugh away the world’s troubles.

Ken made it easy to remember him. Sherry kept the tulips he sent to her ash-gray cubicle until they had browned to the stems. She snuck off to take his calls somewhere she could whisper back the naughty things he told her to say.

When he called on her for a date, it was in person and with symphony tickets in hand.

Sherry went to the Rock ‘N Roll Hall of Fame in a poodle skirt and rhinestone-tipped sunglasses Ken bought her special. When the director of IT passed Sherry over for a promotion, Ken took her clubbing and they washed away the day in a three-day binge of mimosas, Ecstasy and rave dancing.

Every day, he made his love for her loud enough for all to hear. The real special occasions, he snuck up on her with.

Their first anniversary, her crème brulee was served with his house key on the side.

Of course she moved in right away. Ken wasn’t like other people


Ken used loose knots the first time he tied Sherry to their cherry-wood bed. He was only rough enough to leave welcome bruises. He slapped her places that tingled nicely after.

Sherry started taking a long time cleaning the house, getting everything gleaming just right. She lingered, wiping off Windex, looking at the people passing on the other side of the glass—the mothers and kids, the gangs of boys, the old men. It was like looking onto another planet, a bleak and clumsy place, far away from her world with Ken where she woke to mornings with rose petals on the bed, spent days keeping surfaces immaculate, ended her nights marked with his fingertips and flesh.

When Ken sat her on his lap with his hand dug into hers, scanning through pictures of naked women, Sherry’s eyes looked just like his.

She looked on the porn models like they were a different species.

Day after day, they’d look as he touched her and whispered things. Ken watched her stare sometimes stray to the sanctuary of their shag carpet. The blush never left her cheek and her hand only held his neck tighter.


Sherry got so tired of answering the phone after her holidays with Ken that she would smile every time after watching it ring to voicemail. It was always the same call no matter who was on the line.

Her parents, shuffling through boring details of their lives until getting to the bottom line—that maybe she was spending too much time with Ken. Her friends or co-workers, asking her out to half-price potato skins or concerts where people yelled loud to convince themselves they were excited.

It was just like Ken said: Those people didn’t know what time well spent was. They’d never been truly excited in their lives. They were just other people.

Late nights driving Kingsbury Run in Ken’s leased Lexus—their Glamour Runs—now that was exciting. He would point out the shivering teens in their layer-cake makeup. Hand inside her thigh, he’d tear those girls up with whispers about too-skinny tits, bony asses, bulldog faces.

It made Sherry feel superior and sick, sad and special, set-apart by wickedness and by the diamond sparkle of the Lexus’ glass.

Sherry started whispering back on the Glamour Runs. It made Ken’s grin wider. It made his eyes stick to her, all bright gravity. It made him do things to her that had never been done before, even there on the leather of the passenger seat.

Sometimes, she’d feel bad. Not for the girls on Kingsbury. Never for them. They stole seconds of Ken’s attention; they deserved any misery they got.

Sherry would feel bad that she was delighting in their misery just to be closer to his delight. Ken could always tell, though. He would answer with a hand around her neck, a fresh-cut rose on her bathroom counter, and words whispered in her ear after a climax left her melted.

They weren’t like other people, Ken would tell her.

They were rock stars. They were gods. They got what life was about.

Who was she to argue?


Ken knew Sherry wouldn’t argue when he brought the redhead home from Kingsbury. She didn’t smile at the sniffling girl in her fur-trimmed plastic jacket. Her eyes were only on him.

Sure, Sherry grimaced when Ken cuffed the girl to their bed with the same metal that belonged on her wrists. She hugged herself when he took out the knife and cut the girl’s underwear away. She was glaring every time he looked back at her with his hands on the hooker’s skin.

After the girl’s screams were gagged and Ken’s hands were back on his fiancée, Sherry softened. She watched him with eyes that wanted to be looked at. As ever, he knew just what to whisper:

He wanted to watch her do things to the girl.

He did. Sherry put on a show for him, as precise about displaying her cruelty and her glee and her lust as she was about keeping the countertops shining. She made herself a mirror for his desire, and he knew it, and he showed his delight.

Ken wasn’t so delighted when he came back from his shower to find Sherry had strangled the girl with her silk scarf.

When he was done with Sherry, she set her bruised cheek to his thigh and her knees tucked tighter about his feet. His anger exhausted, Ken put his hand about her head. Sherry smiled up with blood between her teeth and told him just what he needed to hear.

They wouldn’t get caught. They could do a dozen more girls and it wouldn’t change anything. They had each other forever now.

They weren’t like other people.

Bio:  Matthew C. Funk is a social media consultant, professional marketing copywriter and writing mentor. He is the editor of the Genre section of the critically acclaimed zine, FictionDaily, and a writer for FangirlTastic and Spinetingler Magazine. M. C. Funk's work features at numerous sites online and in print with Needle Magazine, Howl, 6S and Crimefactory. He is represented by Stacia J. N. Decker of the Donald Maass Literary Agency.

Just Say No by Charlie Wade.

We’d do anything for a hit. Gotta take you low though. None of this happy up shit. Why d’ya want that? Why go up so you have to come back down?

Tried everything. Brown was too messy. Sure it was deep and low, but it fucked us up for weeks. Jellies, not hard enough, not intense. We needed more. We were always looking for something different. Always needed to go one more.

Then, last night, looks like we found it.

Lynn’s on the other sofa finishing off the scotch I nicked from that house. She looks rough this morning, bleary eyes with big bags.


I woke a minute ago when Lynn was screaming and crying. My head hurts, feels like there’s spanners rattling around inside. Every move I make they clang together louder and louder. She finishes the scotch. Don’t ask if I want some. Can’t blame her, I’d have done the same. Should’ve nicked two bottles, but there weren’t enough room for them and the Xbox. Daz’s beside me on the sofa. Looks like he’s waking up. Fucking shock he’s got coming. Biggest shock of my life waking up, and realising what had...

“The Runt’s got a lot to answer for,” said Lynn.

I nod my head. The spanners clang.

After doing over the house, I went down the Crown. Saw Billy the Runt straight away, didn’t bother getting a drink. No point, I weren’t there to drink. The runt was stood by a table, eyes shifting, peeking into corners, seeing things and people that weren’t there. Seeing danger where there weren’t none.

“What you got?” I said.

“I only got pills.” He looked round, sure he was being watched.

“Don’t want fuckin e’s. Wanna go down not up.”

“They ain’t fuckin e’s. Brand new they are. Straight from America. Blast off’s they called. Take you lower than a ...” He paused, tried to think of a phrase he ain’t overused.

“Any good?”

“Damn right. Designed by the military. Chemical warfare and that. Gen-ate-ick-aley designed they are.” He sounded like he’d been practising but was never gonna get it right. “They slip them to the enemy. Mongs them out for hours. Can’t remember nothing afterwards.”

I weren’t convinced. “You sure they’re good?” The runt sold me laxatives one, claimed you get a buzz from the dehydration it causes. He weren’t the only one full of shit that day.

“Fuckin A man, fuckin A. Best fucking hit this side of...” He stopped again, I swear I saw his brain whirring as he tried to finish the line.

“Not sure.” I tried to look uninterested. “I got an Xbox, how many?”

“Do you eight for it.”

“Go on then,” I said.

Back at the house, Lynn was fucking fuming. “An Xbox for eight pills? You get any fucking magic beans as well?”

I explained where they’d come from. “Military mongers,” I’d said. She shrugged her shoulders for a bit, but I won her and the rest round.

We settled down, all four of us and took one each, washed down in the finest stolen whisky.

Then I woke up. Just now.

Daz is awake now. He looks rough as shite. His eyes are pin heads and his mouth’s hanging open. He’s seen her. Seen Susie. Seen her lying on the floor.

“What the fuck happened?” The words croak from his mouth.

Lynn shakes her head. She’s still got tears dribbling down her cheeks. “What we gonna do?” She looks at me, like I can help. I’ve always had a soft spot for Lynn. She’s looking at me now, hoping I can make this go away. Looks like I’m gonna let her down again.

I force myself to look away, down at the floor. My eyes move past the beer cans, then turn left at the hub-cap ashtray till I see Susie, just lying there.

I see her eyes first. They’re like old milky coloured marbles. Her face’s grey, the wrong colour. Like all the blood’s drained out. I look past her shoulder and down her arm. There’s blood on her t-shirt. It’s dried out giving it some hippy tie-dye look.

I take another breath then look further down her arm. Down to the elbow. The stub. The stubby mess of bone and blood where her forearm's missing.

That ain’t the worst part.

Around the stub there’s teeth marks, bite marks, like the arm’s been bitten off at the elbow. I gag as I look further. The rest of her arm, with the hand still attached, it’s lying loose on the carpet. It’s covered in teeth marks. Strips of flesh have been ripped away to the bone. The teeth marks are human, no doubt about it. I look back at Lynn, her t-shirt’s covered in dried blood. So is Daz’s and his hands are red. Stained with it. Stained with her blood.

Me? Yeah I’m covered too, and my mouth tastes of metal. I know what that means. Means I can taste blood. Reckon Lynn could too, that’s why she downed the whisky.

“What do we do?” Lynn says, her voice breaking up.

I look at the table. The little baggy with four pills left. I look round at Daz, he’s eyeing them too. Lynn reaches first and grabs them. She takes one, forces it down before chucking the bag at me. I ram one down, retching on it before giving the bag to Daz.

“See you later,” said Lynn.

“Hope so,” I replied.

Charlie Wade lives in Derbyshire, England and has written three books, a comedy spy thriller, a post credit crunch dystopia and a crime thriller. He's had six short stories published online and his story, Pleading and Bleeding, was in Out Of The Gutter Magazine issue 7. He blogs at

Pothole by Bruce Harris.

The mechanic wiped his hands on an oily red rag. With a greased stained shortened finger, long ago severed at the second joint, he pointed to the underbelly of Ed's classic blue Chevy Corvair.

“Front end’s totally shot to shit and the rim’s fucked up. It needs to be replaced.” The lit stub of a cigarette in the corner of his mouth didn’t move as he spoke. He needed a shave.

“How much, Salty?”

“Jeez, you’re looking at about $500, give or take.”

Ed Davenport turned away from the mechanic and his pride and joy Chevy. It hurt him to see it up on the lift. For Ed, it was almost as if he was staring at his child in a raised hospital bed.

Salty took one last drag. He pinched what remained of the cigarette between his thumb and middle finger, turned his head and spit, then flicked the butt to the ground and stomped on it with a heavy boot. Smoke spurted from his nostrils. “It’s fucked up. How the hell did you do this?”

Ed was worried about the $500. After five years, his Davenport’s Demolition business was teetering on the brink of bankruptcy. This was going to hurt. He stared down at the still smoldering cigarette. “I hit that pothole on Route 11. You know, the one right outside of town. My teeth shook! The really sad part about it is I am more than familiar with that hole. It’s been there for weeks. I’ve seen it a hundred times. I’ve called into that worthless pothole hotline, and every time someone else told me it was going to be repaired. I can’t believe I hit it. I was daydreaming and went smack into it.”

“That sucks.”

“What’s the use of having a pothole hotline if they’re going to ignore the calls they get? This is really bad. Fix it, Salts. You’ve taken good care of her for like 20 years now. It’s only money. I’ve got to have my baby blue back.”


A week later, the pothole was still there, still beckoning unsuspected drivers. Ed poured himself a glass of rye while being parked on hold.

2 MINUTES – Ed had punched the numbers “2” and “3” on his phone indicating he wanted to report a pothole - again.

He was stoic despite the fact that every 45 seconds or so, the insipid music bombarding his eardrum was interrupted by an automated message imploring Ed to continue holding, because his call was important. He’d wait to speak to a live person.

6 MINUTES – Ed finally had the option to push “0” to speak to a city road improvement specialist.
Ed held the phone to his ear. The constant pounding of the music continued. Outwardly, it appeared as if Ed were relaxing in his den listening to his favorite jazz CD. He poured himself a second glass of rye.

8 MINUTES – Ed heard a new message, informing him he was caller number eleven in the queue and his approximate wait time was eleven minutes. Ed was also given the option to go online to the city’s official website to report a pothole in need of repair. He had previously employed that method on a few occasions without success.

22 MINUTES – Ed was informed that his call was outside of the pothole hotline’s business hours and told to call back between the hours of 9:00am and 9:00pm. He was abruptly disconnected. He checked his watch. It was 8:40pm.

Ed calmly finished the rye and headed into the garage and into his pickup. He slowly pulled out of the driveway and nonchalantly headed toward town. On Route 11, he pulled the vehicle over a few feet from the pothole. When he saw empty road to the north and south, he extracted a stick of dynamite from the bed of the truck and carefully placed into the pothole. He was a good half mile away when he felt the ground shake and heard the explosion.

In the morning, Ed made himself a cup of coffee, toast, bacon and eggs. He listened to the radio traffic reporter, “…vestigation continues as we’ve been saying all morning. Stay clear of Route 11 about a mile north of town. Traffic is backed up for miles. Police are urging motorists to avoid the area as road crews work feverishly to repair a 450-foot section of road…” Ed didn’t wait for the rest of the story. He shut the radio, gulped down the last of the Joe, and decided to take the day off and go for a drive. He got into his baby blue Corvair, shoved it in gear, and headed away from town.

Bruce Harris is the author of SHERLOCK HOLMES AND DOCTOR WATSON: ABOUT TYPE ( and a chapbook, THE MAN AND THE MARK ( He enjoys relaxing with a Marxman.

Poison by Dana C. Kabel.

Tyler woke up and puked off the side of the bed.  He tried to pull coherent thoughts out of the black sludge that his brain had turned into.  Did he drink more than usual the night before?  He was pretty sure not.  Food poisoning?  The flu?

Another wave of nausea hit and produced a series of retching dry heaves.  He tried to get up to run to the bathroom, but found his limbs were filled with lead instead of blood and everything hurt.

The effort started him sweating, but he felt cold.  Definitely flu…or food poisoning, though he couldn’t remember what or when he had eaten last.

He needed help and fast, as his temperature felt dangerously high.  He reached to probe his nightstand where he usually set his cell phone, and a strange tingling went up his spine and he blacked out.  Then he spilled over the side of the bed and landed on the floor in a pool of his own vomit.

An indiscernible while later, Tyler woke with his own up-chuck dried and caked to his clothes and skin.  He pulled himself up by the bed sheets and managed to climb back on the bed.

His fever must have broken while he was passed out; he was no longer sweating or chilled.  And in spite of having smelly dried vomit all over him, he did not feel nauseous.

Then something gurgled in his stomach and he flew to the bathroom, making it just in time to void his bowels into the toilet instead of his pants.  It was at that moment that he remembered how badly his body had hurt before he lost consciousness and that the pain was now gone.

When he was finished shitting, he stripped down and threw his clothes in the trash and stepped into the shower.  The steaming water brought him out of the fog.  It felt like it was the first shower he had ever had in his life.

It washed away not only the filth from his body, but the webs from his mind; and when he stepped out of the tub and into a dry towel, he knew exactly where to look.

Tyler went back into the bedroom with the towel around his waist and picked his pillow up and found the handwritten note.  Before he read it, he went around the apartment checking the doors and windows to make sure the double keyed bolts and heavy locks were all in place and that the security bars on the windows were all intact.

The note had to have been placed there while he was out of the apartment.  There was no way anyone could get in once he was safely locked inside.  He was pretty sure of that.

Tyler went to the liquor cabinet and with shaking hands, poured himself a tall glass of bourbon before he sat down with the note.

It read:

Good morning.  Obviously the attempt to poison you again has failed or you wouldn’t be reading this.  Today I shall increase the dose.  You won’t know how, and you won’t know where, but sometime today I will make every effort to kill you.  By this time tomorrow, you will most likely be dead.

Tyler brought the drink that he so desperately wanted up to his lips.  He suddenly realized that the seal on the bottle had been broken.  It could be poisoned already.

“Damnit!”  He went to the sink and poured the amber liquid down the drain.  This meant that he would have to take very careful measures to leave the apartment again and go to the liquor store.

He couldn’t chance calling out for a messenger; the phones were probably bugged and the killer could pretend to be an errand boy.  If he wanted the booze and food and cigarettes that he lived on, he had to go out and get them himself and risk being out in the open.  And he had to risk leaving the apartment unguarded.

Tyler started hyperventilating.  He covered his mouth and slowed his breathing.  Then he wrinkled the note up and threw it in the special basket.  The basket with the three hundred and sixty-four other notes just like it.

Dana C. Kabel’s stories have appeared in A Twist of Noir, Black Heart Magazine, Darkest Before The Dawn, The Flash Fiction Offensive, Muzzleflash, Mysterical-E, Out of the Gutter, Powder Flash Burn, and Yellow Mama.  He blogs at


Apologies (again!) but there are a few changes going on behind the scenes.  Please bear with me while things are ironed out.  It's all for the good of the magazine.

It shouldn't take too long but in the meantime, please check over the past few stories or the Archives.  There are some very fine tales.

Thanks for your continued support and patience.

David - Editor.

They'll Call Me Whistlin Pete By Chuck Caruso.

My Ma weren't even goin to take me to see it when they hanged my Pa.  But I put up one hell of a fit about that and set her straight.  Somebody hangs your kin, I told her, you go and watch them doin it.  My sister Charlotte didn't want to go, but she's only eight so Ma left sis with old widow Atwell while her and me went down there to see the hangin.  I reckon I'm growed up enough to see a man swing when it happens.  I turned eleven last October.

Early in the morning that day I hitched our horses to the wagon and me and Ma rode near twenty miles down to Perseverance where they held the trial and were doin the execution.  Ma said we'd just go down for the noon hangin and travel home by nightfall, but I stashed a bundle with some things under the seat anyways.

Perseverance is a pretty big town with a newspaper and a sheriff's office and all.  Pa had been sittin in the one-room jail there for a week since they got the verdict passed on him.  Guilty of murder as charged.  Pa claimed he'd been dead drunk in the back room of some whorehouse when the deed was done, but he never could explain how an ax from our barn and his hat with his name in it got out to the Reed Ranch all by themselves the same night somebody kilt both Mr. and Mrs. Reed.

At his trial, they said Pa done them murders to rob the Reeds.  Besides their everlasting souls, a few other things went missing from their house, like some coins and banknotes, a gold watch and a gun belt with an old Colt pistol in it.  Mr. Reed's ivory dentures went missin too, but that got shrugged off as what they called a "minor peculiarity."  Dead men don't need to chew much anyways.

They were a nice old couple, the Reeds, and folks said neither of them would hurt a fly.  Course they never seen the whuppin old Mr. Reed give me and my friend Butch when he caught us stealin an apple pie off the window sill of his wife's kitchen.

Everybody was real broke up about the Reeds getting done for by my no-good drunk of a Pa.  It was true enough that Pa got ornery and mean when he'd been hittin the whiskey bottle.  Ma and I both had scars enough to show for that.  Last time he laid into me, he even busted out some of my teeth, including one of the new big ones in front.  I'd only had the damn thing for three years.  After that I whistled when I talked and kids made fun of me.  I told Butch that someday when I'm a famous outlaw they'll call me Whistlin Pete on the wanted posters.  We had a good laugh about that, him and me, but I was mostly serious.  I am going to be an outlaw some day.  You just wait and see if I ain't.

When Ma and I got to Perseverance on hangin day, we found lots of folks crowded in the town square where they'd put up the gallows.  You'd a thought it was the Fourth of July the way most of them were drinkin and hollerin.  It was almost catchin how they was carryin on like it was some sort of holiday.  I pert near found myself smilin along with them as we pushed through so's we could stand near the front.

Me and Ma held hands at the foot of the gallows while the deputies made Pa walk up them pine steps and stand there facin the crowd.  Pa said sorry to me and Ma when he saw us.  It was a familiar enough word on his lips so I recognized it right off even though we couldn't hear the sound of the actual word above the hootin of the crowd.  Ma wiped her eyes with a hanky from her sleeve, but I didn't spill no tears myself.  I'd heard that lie comin from him too many times before to believe it now and I was done with cryin anyways.

Pa's eyes searched ours in the last moments before they pulled the burlap sack down over his face and looped the noose over his head.  I don't know what he mighta been lookin for, but he sure as hell didn't see it in my eyes.  Ma turned away weepin but I watched to the finish.  When the trap fell, he dropped down and his neck snapped.  He didn't kick or nothin just became dead weight swayin on a line.  The crowd hushed then and I could hear the sound of the hemp rope whispering against the crossbeam.

Back at the wagon, I grabbed my bundle of things and told Ma I had to go check on somethin.  Most days she would have peppered me with questions but she just nodded and climbed up on the wagon, seemin real sad on account of Pa.  I kissed her on the cheek and run off.  I don't know how long she waited there before she figured out I wasn't never coming back.

I didn't really have nothin to check on except the time of the next coach out of there.  Down at the depot, I paid for a ticket as far as Ft. Boise and waited around for the stagecoach to come through at one-thirty.  A pretty lady showed me how to tell time on my gold watch.  I told her it was an inheritance from my dearly departed grandfather.  I felt good leavin.  I had some cash and an old Colt pistol in my bag, and I was hopeful that if I did good for myself I'd find a dentist who could fix these dentures I was carryin so they'd fit me proper.  Otherwise, well, I guess they'd still just have to call me Whistlin Pete.

Bio:  Chuck Caruso lives in a drafty old farmhouse in the Pacific Northwest with his long-suffering wife and their two hirsute daughters. His dark fiction has appeared in Cemetery Dance, Dark Discoveries, SWANK and other national magazines as well as numerous crime and horror anthologies. Visit his blog at

Mother’s Ruin by Allan Watson.

It was a slow night in the Eight Till Late. There had been a few guys buying cigarettes earlier on, and I’d also had the fun diversion of chasing off a group of spotty fifteen year olds with fake ID’s trying to buy bottles of cider. Since then, my attention had been taken up with deconstructing Henry James’s ‘Turn of the Screw’ for an essay I needed to finish. To make the task more bearable, I’d filched a couple of Mars Bars from the confectionery tray.

At ten o’clock the shop door opened. I looked up, half expecting to see the spotty teenagers wearing false beards, back for another futile cider raid. Instead, it was a middle-aged woman wearing a green tweed coat. As she busied herself at the vegetable rack, I got back to my essay. The next time I looked up, she was standing at the counter right in front of me. It seemed that after filling her basket with cucumber, carrots, potatoes and a leek, she had taken the time to tie a large white handkerchief around her lower face. Then I noticed the gun pointing directly at my chest.

‘Empty the till,’ she said in a very calm voice.

‘Erm…… are you really sure you want to be doing this? It’s been quiet in here tonight and the takings are pretty sparse.’

She was silent for a moment, giving me time to take in her appearance. Her tweed coat was buttoned up to the neck, hiding what she was wearing underneath, but it couldn’t disguise the distinct swell of a matronly bosom. Her hair was dark and swept back in an old fashioned style. I expected to see panic in her eyes, but they remained locked firmly on mine, showing not a hint of fear or uncertainty. This was a woman who’d made up her mind to do something and was seeing the job through.

Eventually she said, ‘Empty the till or I’ll blow your head off.’

I opened the till drawer and removed twenty six pounds. I held them out feeling almost embarrassed.

‘Put it in a bag. And don’t forget the loose change.’

I bundled the money into a carrier bag which she slipped into the pocket of her coat.

‘Now empty your pockets.’

I did as she asked. I had two pounds and thirty six pence. ‘Sorry, I’m a student. Wouldn’t be working here otherwise. But you’re welcome to it anyway.’

She hesitated, then her shoulders slumped beneath the fabric of the coat. ‘Keep it,’ she said. ‘What University are you attending?’

‘Strathclyde. Doing a degree in English Literature.’

‘Working hard, I hope?’

I thought it was a bizarre turn for the conversation to take, but held up my copy of Henry James. ‘Got my head stuck in the books even when I’m working here.’

‘That’s highly commendable. Nothing makes me more angry than children not appreciating the sacrifices their parents make to give them the opportunity of a decent education.’

‘Have you got kids at University yourself?’

She nodded her head. ‘Two daughters at St Andrews. It’s costing me a fortune paying for accommodation. That’s a lot of money for a single parent like me to find. I wouldn’t be doing this otherwise. Robbing you, I mean. I hope you won’t lose your job because of me.’

‘It’s fine,’ I said. ‘Hardly think they’re going to fire me over twenty six quid.’ I nodded at the basket full of vegetables. ‘You want me to bag those for you?’

‘Thank you. I’m making soup. It’s all I can afford to eat most days.’

‘Me too, if I wasn’t working here.’ I showed her my Mars Bar and took a bite.

‘That’s not very nutritional. If you’re going to steal food you should at least eat more fruit and vegetables.’

I laughed. ‘You sound just like my mum.’

That seemed to please her. Her eyes crinkled in that certain way that told me she was smiling beneath the handkerchief. She got even more mumsy when she tutted and pointed to my mouth. ‘You’ve got chocolate smeared, just there.’ She suddenly pulled the handkerchief away from her face, licked a corner of it and leaned across to clean the chocolate from the side of my mouth. When she stood back I got a good look at her face. Although she looked to be in her early fifties, she was extremely attractive. Her lips were red and full and extremely kiss-able.

She took a step back from the counter. The gun which she had lowered when cleaning my face was now pointed firmly at my heart. ‘Sorry, that was stupid of me. Now you’ve seen my face.’

She swiftly cocked the hammer and pulled on the trigger. Instead of flame and gun smoke and instant death, there was only a dry click. Before she could chamber another bullet, I grabbed the cucumber from her carrier bag and smacked her hard across the temple. She dropped silently to the ground.

I raced to the front door and locked it, before pulling down the shutter. I checked the woman’s breathing and found her to be alive. That was good. Then I dragged her into the back room and unbuttoned her coat. The promise of that matronly bosom beneath the tweed was fulfilled in every way I could have dreamed of. The money she’d stolen would be returned to the till. The gun I could sell in one of the rougher pubs in the area. No-one would ever know she’d been here.

After stuffing the handkerchief into her mouth, I began undressing her. I’d always had a thing about older women and this one was a real prize. Much tastier than the last few I’d raped and strangled. When I’d had my fun, her body would be dumped in a nearby skip.

I stroked the unconscious woman’s cheek and said, ‘Fruit and veg you say? Let’s check out those melons.’

Bio:  I'm a writer of sorts. If I'm not writing, I'm playing music. Can't manage do both at the same time for some reason. I'm the author of four Kindle novels. Dreaming in the Snakepark, Carapace, The Garden of Remembrance, and 1-2-3-4. Also got a collection of weirdy short stories going up in a few weeks time. Play in a few bands - one of which is Hazey Jane II where I'm joined by crime and horror writer Phil Rickman. What else? I'm from Glasgow and currently in deep despair over the demise of my football team. Well, the despair isn't that deep. It's the most exciting thing to have happened to us this season.

Voodoo Love by Matthew C. Funk.

Papa Legba lived in Valiant's pocket, on a three-link chain to his Glock 17. Valiant kept all his saints - his voodoo loa charms - close. A kingpin of Desire's corners had to.

Papa Legba ruled the crossroads: Opened the gates between the world of nature and the world of spirit. Mama taught Valiant that Legba also went by "Saint Peter," before she vanished.

Ogun, the warrior Saint Michael, drove the swelter and cracks of Desire's streets with Valiant every day, dangling in silver from his Tacoma's rear-view. Baron Samedi was carved into his money clip, his dominion over death and wealth strengthening Valiant on his shakedowns and snitch killings. Erzuli, the Blessed Virgin of love, stood in pink soapstone by his stained bathroom mirror.

Valiant had all the Saints he needed. Until he found Violetta.

Erzuli had been moved to his bedside that morning. Valiant needed her warmth nearby after Katrina's nails had ripped gaps in his home's walls.

Violetta was picking through Christmas ornaments outside the Winn-Dixie when Valiant went there for blankets. Her brown skin gleamed like a statue God polished every day. Her smile made the mist in the air seem the gloss on a greeting card.

They traded sugared words. He bought her baubles and a Big Shot cream soda. She found his hand like she'd been looking for it her whole life.

"How about being mine for awhile?" Valiant said.

"Awhile sounds like a good start," Violetta said.

After a month of cruising Krunk shows together and steaming the Tacoma's windows in empty lots on Pontchartrain's shores, Violetta took to staring at Ogun's swing above the dash. Her perfect skin creased. Her fingers on Valiant's neck gripped to hold the blood in place.

"You got to be done with gang-banging if you're going to be with me," Violetta would whisper, tongue near enough to gilt Valiant's ear. "I don't want to lose you."

"I don't want to be lost."

"Lose the gang for both of us, then."

Ogun came down from the rear view and Valiant kept out of Grub turf. Calls from fellow soldiers in the Dirty-30, even his best friends Owen and C-Murder, went to voice mail.

Valiant patched his walls. He locked his doors at 11. He shrugged off his friends' punches and pleas for help.

Violetta strung Christmas lights over his iron-barred porch. She made their bed early to preserve their heat of the night before. She decked his rooms with aromas of cayenne, flour and andouille.

When C-Murder banged Valiant's door with their friend's blood on his fists, Valiant answered. He listened to how the Grubs had hung their shoes over a Dirty-30 corner seconds after they put seven bullets through Owen. He nodded and touched Baron Samedi's symbol on his money clip as C-Murder said they had to do something.

"You want to go rolling with them," Violetta said when she heard, "don't expect me to be waiting if you come back."

"When I come back, you got to be waiting."

"When or if, I won't be here."

Valiant spent the next week behind his new locks and Christmas lights, listening for gun shots. Two weeks after, he read poems to Violetta curled in his lap, one ear turned to the second-line funeral jazz playing for boys from both gangs. When he drove alone to buy their groceries later that month, Valiant listened to the voicemails:

He heard his friends sobbing and snarling that he'd abandoned them. He listened to the echoing names of Dirty-30 soldiers lost because he didn't stand by them. He heard the silence after the voicemails stopped, their emptiness like an opening grave.

She started asking Valiant what was wrong every time he came home silent. She quit laughter, quit eating as much, quit touching him first, when he told her. She would be found staring at the stains in the ceiling when he startled awake amid the night.

"I'm afraid they'll come for you," Violetta said, holding her hands locked over her lap. "I'm afraid they'll never go away."

"It ain't just our world, it's theirs too."

"I just want them gone."

Valiant kept Baron Samedi balled in one fist when he shot C-Murder with the Glock 17 in the other. He watched his friend choke on blood for five minutes outside the Mini-Mart before getting in his truck. Two hours after, he pulled into house-high weeds by one of his former Dirty-30 corner, got out of the Tacoma and hid behind a tree. It took thirty minutes before C-Murder's cousins cruised up with Rav-4's sub-woofers thumping and bandanas raised.

He stepped from the tree and crossed the street with Papa Legba dancing on the chain. He saw his pal Gary's eyes, familiar as they'd been at all of his birthday parties, catch sight of him in the side mirror. He unloaded the clip before any could turn, popped a fresh one in, emptied that into what still twitched in the Rav-4.

She smiled twice as much the next week. She left the bed unmade and made calls to friends in Baton Rouge. She touched Valiant with wooden hands and avoided his eyes.

"I just couldn't take it anymore," Violetta told Valiant over the phone, three days after she vanished without even a note. "I can't be with a man like you."

"I did everything you wanted," Valiant pleaded into the phone, staring at Erzuli's statue by his bedside.

"After the way you turned on your friends, I just can't trust you."

She hung up when Valiant ran out of words. He held the phone and stared at the bed, stripped of blankets, where the impression of Violetta's body cradled Papa Legba bound to the gun.

Bio:  Matthew C. Funk is a social media consultant, professional marketing copywriter and writing mentor. He is the editor of the Genre section of the critically acclaimed zine, FictionDaily, and a writer for FangirlTastic and Spinetingler Magazine. M. C. Funk's work features at numerous sites online and in print with Needle Magazine, Howl, 6S and Crimefactory. He is represented by Stacia J. N. Decker of the Donald Maass Literary Agency.