Sunday, January 22, 2017

A Twist Of Noir 003 - Albert Tucher

Plumber’s Crack by Albert Tucher

“Now that,” said the mainlander, “sums up Hawaii for me.”

The man spoke to Coutinho, but he kept his eyes on the young woman across the street. She was kneeling to paint an ornamental picket fence in front of one of the houses in the middle of the block.

As she leaned forward to touch up the bottom of the foot-high fence, her low-rise jeans did what came naturally. The hem of her cropped T-shirt climbed, and the fabric stretched across her toned back.

“Usually it’s a middle-aged fat guy flashing you plumber’s crack. Here it’s somebody like her.”

Coutinho could have agreed about beautiful island-born young brunettes of Portuguese descent, but he was busy. Not that he looked it. The lift at the Philips 76 station had a white Camry up in the air, but Coutinho hadn’t touched it all morning. He glanced down at the oval name patch on his mechanic’s coverall. For the moment, his name was Joe.

An onlooker might have wondered why he wasn’t holding a wrench, or what was so fascinating about the plastic bucket on the ground that kept him hovering over it. A glance inside would have shown nothing but a rag.

But there weren’t any onlookers.

“Think I’ll go over and talk to her,” said the mainlander. “What the hell? I’m on vacation.”

“She’s out of your league.”

Coutinho could have added that the man must have taken a wrong turn on his way to the Kona resorts. Few visitors found their way to this modest neighborhood in Hilo on the rainy side of the Big Island.

“Jeez, where’s that aloha spirit?”

The man didn’t really seem offended, probably because he was entitled to some confidence. He looked fit and squared away in his forties.

“Don’t say I didn’t warn you,” Coutinho said.

The man shrugged.


He wandered off and disappeared around the curve in the road.

Coutinho went back to waiting. He tried to avoid looking too long at anything, especially the young woman, or the house next door to the one where she was working.

The mainlander reappeared on her side of the street. He must have hustled as soon as he got out of sight. When he reached the young woman, he stopped and spoke to her.

She ignored him. He tried again. She gave him a curt nod without looking up from her work. Most men would have taken the hint.

But the mainlander crouched next to her and pointed at a spot on the fence. His other hand rested casually on her shoulder. She shrugged the hand off and duck-walked a couple of steps away from him.

He followed, and this time he flagrantly groped her chest.

She threw an elbow at his face. He parried it. She jumped to her feet and backpedaled.

The man closed in fast and punched her in the face. The unexpected addition to her momentum made her fall on her rump. Her right hand went under the hem of her shirt.

Coutinho pulled his eyes away. This fight was a distraction.

And here came the main event careening around the same curve in the road. An aging Crown Victoria threatened to crush anything in its path. Coutinho knew a throwaway car when he saw one.

He stooped and grabbed the rag and tossed it aside. What he needed was his S&W nine millimeter under the rag in the bucket. He stood and aimed, but his angle was wrong. Coutinho swore and ran into the street.

He pulled his shield out from under his coverall and let it dangle on its lanyard. The driver of the Crown Vic wasn’t impressed. The car kept coming. Coutinho watched the barrel of an assault rifle emerge from the rear window on the driver’s side. The rifle opened up at the house next door to the picket fence. Coutinho could see bullets punching brutally right through the wall and the front door. He responded with three shots into the car’s windshield.

The driver ducked, but he popped upright again and executed a tight J-turn. Coutinho jumped backward, and the right rear quarter of the Crown Vic missed him by inches. The car accelerated away from him. He regained his balance and fired several more shots at the rear window. It disintegrated, but the car kept going.

Coutinho turned and looked. Both the young woman and the mainlander were sitting on the sidewalk. She held a gun in a two-handed grip. He clutched his thigh. Blood dripped from her nose down her upper lip. More blood seeped between the man’s fingers. Coutinho hadn’t heard the shot, but there had been a lot of shooting going on.

“Shit,” the young woman said, as the blood continued to drip. “Face down. Now.”

Her gun didn’t waver as she climbed to her feet.

“Can’t,” said the mainlander. “Somebody put this bullet hole in me.”

“Whose fault is that? Do it.”

He decided to roll over. She looked at Coutinho.

“You got cuffs?”

“Do you?”

She lifted the hem of her shirt and showed him her bra holster.

“Only so much room in here.”


The mainlander looked relaxed for a man handcuffed to a hospital bed.

“So, Joe. Where’s my lawyer?”

“It’s Errol,” said Coutinho, “but you can call me Detective. He’s coming.”


“The witness is in protective custody.”


“You don’t have to talk, but I can. I just want you to know you fucked up.”

It had been close. There had barely been time to evacuate the witness and the immediate neighbors. Then they needed a couple of cops to hang around without looking like cops. Coutinho could pass for a mechanic, and Officer Jenny Freitas would fit in anywhere.

“The plumber’s crack was her idea. Fooled you, didn’t she?”

“Almost, but she took a punch like a cop.”

“She also kept you too busy to call the operation off.”

“So give her a commendation.”

“We will.”

Saturday, January 14, 2017

A Twist Of Noir 002 - Chris Benton

The Theory Of Hands by Chris Benton

In the riddle light I wake, and try to open my eyes but their lids fail, frozen shut by the sap of my tears, so I remain conscious, for a brief eternity in this cold-sweat temple of sleep, still stepping over the debris of my dream, stepping over Jessica's corpse, freshly wilted and weeping moon-light, stepping over Michael's corpse, whose smile was always a great geometric mystery, Michael, my dearest love, I kneel to kiss him, and my dick stirs mournfully within the twin actuality. I step over Ivan's corpse, whose infant curl spoke the unborn history of homicidal heroes, stepping over Kathy's corpse, whose black and blue eyes swim in her husband's wishing well, stepping over Alexander's corpse, who looks sadder now that he's beyond his joyful mutiny of sound, stepping over Christoph, whose gaze is horribly uncertain, stepping over Rachel's corpse, the great defender of the transensory faith: Rachel, her corpse, like her sister Jessica's, a blue insensate flower of pride, lunacy, pregnancy, their prodigals already evacuate, fluttering in silence above me, their heads are subdivided jewels from the secret hymns, as they spiral within a murderous airborne ballet between the heaving, glow-worm walls of the Buried Eye fellowship hall. I crawl carefully beneath their beast-waltz, finding our febrile father, our prophet, our final hour in the flesh, Sebastian, minus the history of arrows, at rest against the stained effigy of the pine pillar keeping the small roof a steady miracle, I find him still alive, whispering into the white forest of his chest but the dream is already losing recombinant cohesion, as he folds his oneiric flesh into himself like a bitter, molecular love letter, sliding back through another weeping mail slot of parallel memory.

I hear him, now, dreamless, never a prey of survival and its bone-closed, looped-language of nightmare. I grope for the bottle of Beam, take a belt, and another, spitting a little into my palms. I rub my hands together and wipe my eyes, dissolving the tomb of tears my dreams build every night since the extinction of my post-limbic tribe and I hiss, outta the truck now, staggering in a dangerous circle, the stinging at first exquisite, then degrading into a clarifying lament. It is early morning. The land is brutal and barren.  I check my watch with a cigarette lighter and find its arms are missing. To survive is to live without the limbs of time.

“Where the fuck are we now, mister professor fucking Miles,” Daren says, hawking a demon from his tonsils. 

In The Riddle Light? 

I picked up Daren from a truck stop on the outskirts of Nashville. He is young enough to be my son, or my student in that long-ago life. He never dreams, his unconscious is a black sea inhabited by those blind, glowing predators, who are forever floating toward their next feeding-frenzy.

It is snowing in Oklahoma. I own ominous nostalgia of Oklahoma. I search the rest stop for a sign, and find nothing save for flies, flies everywhere, defying the snow, and they bother Daren, he, of the indestructable hippocampus, he shadow-boxes them into the infancy of night. 

I was a teacher, once, I taught kids, yes. 

I rest while Daren plays with ghosts and hustlers. I vaguely hope he kills one. I remember Jessica, at the Buried Eye Ranch. It is summer, in Las Vegas, New Mexico, she is beginning to show our father's seed in her belly. She is radiant, her smile timeless with psychosis. She is speaking of eternity again, and the metamorphosis of death: “The purpose of the illiastrum is transformation, not of genomic traits, but of pre-genomic traits, into transensory identity, consciousness without the false history of humanity, only future memory, pure creation, a coalescence of new psychogenic proteins into a new anatomy, tearing apart the Euclidean chrysalis of flesh, flying outside the carceral continuum of time, becoming the epiphanies of eternally dying moments.” She invokes our Father's manic, esoteric gospel with a sonorous, escalating rhythm, and we are both looking to the sky as she speaks. The Enemy Eye is throbbing above us like a cosmic brain tumor, the crawling, bright clouds its misshapen, prodigal spawn. There is no wind, yet the creek-reeds are swaying wildly with approval. A spiral of migrating Monarch's suddenly invade our eternally dying moment. Jessica opens her arms like a penitent, and they descend upon her, isolating her from me, from family, from humanity. She dreamily plucks one whispering into her areola and folds it under her tongue.

Daren is slapping his bloody hands on the passenger window of the Ford. It is completely night now, and despite my previous vow, I fell asleep, suffering dreams I needed to die inside of, yet my lids are not frozen shut, because I can see Daren is smiling, and I unlock the door. He slides inside, he is smiling, I turn on the cabin light, and his smile glows brighter with the blood on his teeth. His hands are trembling, holding a wallet, wet with more blood, and this is the theory of hands, trembling, when they know the wisdom they were created for. 

BIO: Chris Benton lives in North Carolina, his stories can be found at A Twist Of Noir, Plots With Guns, Crime Factory, Thrills, Kill's 'N' Chaos and elsewhere, if you dig deep enough...