Spider by K. A. Laity (FREE Kindle Download)

Spider by K. A. Laity

From the collection UNQUIET DREAMS

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She seemed so small at the big table, a drink with the palest hint of green beaded with sweat next to the flickering candle. His heart swelled. He knew he wouldn’t tell her—at least not that night—that the emotion flooding his ventricles was protectiveness. She was so self-sufficient, what with her little candy shop and her scrupulously kept accounts.

He had seen them—and her—when he first figured out the clues. Her username (“candyheart”) and her avatar (the gift-wrapped 1lb dark chocolate truffle box) added to her “self-employed” designation and a few casually dropped references to the chocolate trade. You didn’t have to be Sam Spade to connect the dots.

“Tabitha?” He added the question mark to his voice in order to play the part of the uncertain swain.

She smiled. “It’s you.” Her hand thrust out awkwardly and he enclosed it in his large paw, feeling a surge of satisfaction that felt so primal, so right. It took all his strength not to enfold her in his arms at once. Calm down, you’ve got a lifetime.

The drink, she explained, was zubrowka, a kind of Polish vodka with some sort of grass in it. Normally he’d find such a thing unhygienic, but because it was her drink, he got one, too. The cold bite of that first sip sealed the night for him. He didn’t usually drink but there was something so clean about the taste, he knew it was a sign.

Talk came easily, just as it had online. Over the flank steak Tabitha confessed, “I still think of you in my head as Number 7.” The pink blush on her cheeks did something to his insides. They churned like hot taffy.

“It’s not actually Number 7. It’s Double O seven,” he corrected her. “It’s from a movie—actually a series of movies.” The vodka made him feel expansive, he forgave her misunderstanding easily.

Her laugh tinkled like broken glass. “When you said it out loud, I remembered at once. James Band!”

“Bond.”

She smiled. “That’s the one!”

The bloody red of the steak as she popped it in her mouth increased the warmth he felt from her nearness and the drink and the night. “I have something to show you,” he said feeling the heat a little too much on his brow.

“I know,” she said, smiling yet, though her eyes grew serious.

He looked over his shoulder to assure himself no one else in the room was paying them any attention, then began to unbutton his shirt. For a moment, he hesitated, then pulled back the crisp linen to reveal the long welts across his chest.

Tabitha reached up her tiny hand to touch his skin. It was electric. He thought her tiny nails, varnished an innocent pink, somehow made the slender fingers even more delicately beautiful.

“I really don’t mind the scars,” she murmured, turning her bright eyes back to her plate, a crimson flush rising up the back of her neck—visible even in the dim light of the restaurant. It foretold a sensuous nature.

“May I walk you home,” he asked, his voice catching slightly as he slipped the raincoat over her small shoulders.

“Of course.” Her bright eyes promised so much. Surely the path to her home would have some quiet corner where he could test that promise and take that little girl into his arms. When they crossed Pine at the corner and she pointed off toward Yates, he knew the right place.

“Can we step in here a moment?” He gestured to narrow behind the Chinese restaurant. His heart leapt into his throat. “I-I wanted to kiss you. I didn’t know how to ask.”

“Shhh,” she said and took him by the hand. They walked into the passage and she turned her bright eyes up to him.

“You’re so lovely, Tabitha.” He rested his big hands on her shoulders. “So very lovely.”

“And you’re so delicious, Number 7,” she said with a smile, her white teeth glinting in the dark.

“Double O seven,” he chuckled.

“No, Number 7,” she corrected him as her mouth dropped open and she sunk her teeth into his chest, tearing away a gaping hole in the flesh as he clanged back against the rubbish bin. Her grin transfixed him as she wiped the blood across her face and it dripped onto the raincoat. Quick as a lightning bolt she struck again, cracking ribs and growling. Then he saw it was his heart in her teeth, blood still furiously pumping out of it in all directions.

“I love you, Tabitha.”

She popped the heart out her mouth with one tiny hand, bouncing it up and down as if weighing it. “I know, dear, I know.”

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The Hallowe’en Party by McDroll (FREE Kindle Download)

The Hallowe’en Party by McDroll

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Another year; another Hallowe’en party. Think ‘Abigail’s Party’ with masks on. No way out of it, so nothing else to do but suck it up and start stuffing the olives. Got to research some new creepy recipes. Don’t want to be the talk of the street after all. Bitches will be judging every last cobweb and skeleton. Thought I might make dead men’s fingers creeping out of blood and sheep’s eyeballs in gravy to delight the parvenu. Some of the seasoned nonpareil will get another twirl I suppose. Would be complaints if I didn’t brew up ‘open heart’ stew or cat sick on poo. It always amazes me how all the pseudo shrew’s and their plebeian partners revert back to being asinine adolescents, guffawing at all the toilet humour, eating sick and dog poo, killing themselves laughing whilst digging into brains and snot.

They all say I put on a ‘magical party’ for such an old woman but then refuse to take a turn. All the Spanky Swankies get to do the ‘Nigella’ parties, all showing off their amuse-bouches while I have to make yet another cauldron of toenail soup. Never mind, could be worse, I suppose. At least my offspring are grown up and I don’t need to get involved in the kiddies’ party scene. Now that really is torture. Outdoing each other with their Petit Chanel party bags and chocolate fountains. There was a vulgar pink stretch limo in the street last week for little Fifi’s birfday. Only six but already permanently attached to her mobile phone, glued in hair extensions and weekly manicures in the mall.  Seemingly the ‘girls’ all had a makeover and a fashion shoot before they arrived at the party. Little bitsy things, thin as sticks. Could do with a good fattening up. Should be playing with Barbies and colouring in books. Now they all go out on ‘play dates’ at the weekend and move around in herds to slumber parties. Makes my warts itch.

Don’t get me started though. I’m just as bad really with my obsequious behaviour. I’ve seen the day that I could have put them in their place with one squint of the eye, but now I play along with the social scene, drawing the line at the swapping that is, who’d want an old crone like me anyway? But I seem to come in handy in a ‘sweet old granny’ way as well as for my ‘World Famous’, authentic Hallowe’en parties. I’m always available to babysit. Don’t ever mention that to Hansel. Since Vince passed, there’s not the same pleasure in our line of work. We were quite the team in our day but our wee house in the woods was just not handy for the shops, so we moved into suburbia. I just amuse myself whenever I can, just me and my cats. Still tempted to use that cage but don’t want to draw the attention of social services. That’s where it all went wrong for us.

Think I’ll make the ‘obliterating’ punch again this year, went down a bomb, you know. They all loved my secret ingredient, just watching the shenanigans made my night. Amuses me anyway. Who would have thought the captain of the golf club could have done that with a toilet brush! Have to be careful though to get the ingredients just right, don’t want anybody to remember the next morning, just my secret but it gives such pay-back. Snobby bitches.

Takes me all year to collect all the bits and bobs I need for my beastly buffet. I stick stuff in jars and put it in the freezer. Nobody’s ever going to check in there, thank goodness. They’d get a real ‘eyeful.’ And to think they all tell me how realistic my tasty bites are! “You’d think those were real toe-nails!” they bellow as they keep chewing. Yum. “Aren’t sheep’s eyeballs awfully like pickled onions, Meg?” they smirk. It’s just the vinegar that does it. Malevolence, my beautiful pussy, is very helpful when it comes to the sick and ‘dog’ poo dip. Defrosts fine. And the ‘brains’ are just coloured porridge but the snot…that takes ages to collect.

Now…where did I put my ancient recipe book? My mother handed it onto me before she passed, had to be me. Her seventh daughter.

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Also check out Last Chance by N. E. White

Last Chance by N. E. White (FREE Kindle Download)

Last Chance by N. E. White

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Blood oozed across the kitchen floor. Kneeling on the tiled floor, Carmen looked to Albert’s shattered face. Tears filled her eyes and a silent scream stretched her face.

Something solid struck her temple. Her bruised arms reached to protect her head, but the killer batted them away. He stepped in front of her, splashing through blood and blocking out Albert’s brains running down the wall.

Cupping her bony chin, he yanked her head up. His mouth worked, but no sound came. Carmen realized the roaring in her ears was her own blood, still coursing through her unworthy veins. Gunshot. Too close.

She tried to put her hands up to her ears, but the killer shook her head while someone else pressed cold metal to the base of her neck. Slower than the dawn, his voice broke through her ringing ears.

“Where’s the money?”

Carmen shook, and her gaze snapped to Albert’s feet. He had on his work boots; hard, polished leather. Light reflected from their heels. For a moment, she lost herself in that one bright spark; lost herself in a life that didn’t include Albert or heroin.

The killer in front of her cursed at his partner’s trigger-happy finger and the mess he made. The big one started defending himself, said the rat was going for a gun.

He was right, though neither Carmen or Albert could remember where they had stashed the bullets. They didn’t want the baby to swallow them by mistake. Beside, they hadn’t thought they’d ever have to use the gun again.

Carmen’s small voice spilled out into the room and hid under the table.

The first killer lowered himself as the distant sound of sirens reached them. He looked out the back door while he said, “What, honey. Just tell us where it is and we’ll be out of your hair. Do it quick, or Big Daddy here is gonna have a little more fun?

His voice was low and sexy. Why did she feel a need to please this man? She bit her tongue, and closed her eyes. Not this time, she thought, this was her last chance to leave this hell behind.

The sirens turned a corner, and their wail joined her sons. The assassin lifted, pushing her away when another gunshot choked the world. She slammed into Albert’s legs, blood filling her mouth.

Choking on her last breaths, she tried to tell them she used the last of their money on her baby’s trust fund.

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Also check out The Hallowe’en Party by McDroll

A Knife And A Quill Presents: Getting Rid of Murray

Author: J.B. Dane

L. Vera’s Notes: I once thought that eventually I would run out of things to write about. I had some successful pieces, not anything that had brought me any money but things that brought me praise from my readers. I thought I could never do better. Now I’ve written over 40 different stories since then and I say to myself looking at the mess and gems, “When will it stop?”. There are millions of possible stories and if you really, for one minute, think you can’t make another, then you’re not trying. J. B. Dane’s  “Getting Rid of Murray” is one of those stories. A situation that’s out there. A situation that could happen. A situation I wish I had thought of. Nonetheless, here’s “Getting Rid of Murray”, a fine edition to “The Wall”. 

Getting Rid of Murray

“Who’s this?”

Leo Tilbury didn’t bother to look up from his desk but continued to fuss with the topmost sheet of paper in the file folder, adjusting it neatly—some might say meticulously, some might say fanatically—until it aligned precisely with those sheets beneath it.  “Who’s who?” he asked.

“Whadda ya mean ‘who’s who’?” Albert Pepperidge demanded.

At the irritation in Pepperidge’s voice, Leo decided he’d better look up.

When there were no grieving customers in sight, the funeral director shed his professional skin and reverted to the louse his employees knew best.  At the moment, Pepperidge was gesturing wildly, his arms wind milling as he pointed into the crematorium.  “Who’s this?  It had better not be Mrs. Farquharson.”

Leo sincerely hoped it wasn’t either.  He reached for the lid of the ornate urn on the credenza next to his chair.  A peep inside told him Agnes Farquharson was where she was supposed to be.  “Nope, she’s here, boss.  All ready to perch on her granddaughter’s mantle next to the mister.”

Pepperidge took a deep breath.  From the color his face was turning, Leo thought his boss would need more than a single gulp of the mortuary’s mechanically cleaned, temperature controlled air to calm down.
“I hate to sound redundant,” Pepperidge said, his voice seemingly under control.  “But who the Sam Hill is this then?” he ended in a thunder.

“Search me,” Leo admitted.  “No idea.  Agnes was the last client we toasted.”

Pepperidge cringed at the last word.  Leo liked to call them as he saw them.  As long as the paperwork was done properly, he was a happy man.  He didn’t have to deal with the bereaved, but merely processed the dearly departed whether the required service be pump ‘em and plant ‘em or send them off like a Viking champ, sans the boat.  At least he’d heard the Vikings had used a boat as a pyre.  Earliest case of trying to take it with you that Leo had ever heard.

Pepperidge took a moment to pull himself together.  “Take another look,” he urged.  “Perhaps something about this…”  He gestured toward what the uninitiated would have taken for the collected contents of a dustpan.  “…will jog one of those atrophied cells you call a brain.  Do you, for instance, have the required forms to file?”

The mention of the documents in question chilled Leo to the bone.  The “IN” box on the desk was tellingly vacant.  Just in case he’d automatically put the sheets in his top drawer the evening before, Leo pulled it open.  A plain white envelope lay within, its bulging sides an all too familiar reminder of his less than straight and narrow life prior to that with Pepperidge Funereal Services.

“Maybe someone wandered in,” Leo offered.

Pepperidge didn’t look like he was going to buy that lame idea.

“I’ll ask around,” Leo said.

Pepperidge nodded briefly.  “You do that, Leo.  And ask the right people, hmm?”

Leo made a call.

***

The Dude looked like he could do serious damage to a body—any body—but in truth he left the physical side of business to his associates.  Three of them, and a woman who dressed like she was auditioning for a part in a heavy metal video, flanked Dude as he unfolded his lanky form from a well crushed, crushed velvet sofa.

Leo forced himself not to wipe away the sweat beading on his forehead as he sidled inside the dilapidated storefront that served as Dude’s office.

“M’ man,” Dude greeted and began the intricate handshake ritual that never actually involved either of them shaking hands.  Dude dropped his fist down on Leo’s.  Leo reciprocated.  Dude smashed his clenched hands together, knuckles to knuckles, and then went knuckles to knuckles with Leo.

Except Leo missed and rammed his fist into Dude’s bicep.

A collective gasp went up from Dude’s associates.

“Sorry.”  Leo tried to brush the blow from the gangsta’s arm.  “I’m a bit dyslexic.”

“It’s cool,” Dude assured, although Leo bet his chances of living to an old age would diminish quickly if he ever repeated the error.

“You should eat prunes,” Dude’s girl friend suggested.  “They really work.”

“On what?” Dude asked, sounding honestly curious.

“You know.  On his ‘little problem.’”

Leo fancied he could see the two words floating in the air above him with garish neon quotation marks bracketing them.

“What problem?” Dude demanded.

She rolled heavily made up eyes.  “You know.  Being dyslexic and all.”  She turned to Leo, eager to help.  “My granny’s got the same thing and she swears by prunes.”

“Go get Leo some prunes,” Dude ordered indiscriminately to the men behind him.

“I don’t think we got any,” one of the minions said.

Dude frowned.  “So get some,” he snapped.  “I got business to do.”

With Dude’s dark eyes turned on him once more, Leo didn’t think he was going to need any prunes, even if he did suddenly come down with whatever Granny had.

“About the envelope,” Leo began.

“It ain’t enough?” Dude demanded.

“It’s plenty,” Leo hastily assured.  “It’s just that you should have taken him—or her—with you.”

Dude chuckled.

Leo didn’t think it was a pleasant sound.

“Hey, Cosh,” Dude called to one of his men.

“He thinks we should have taken Murray with us.”

Cosh, who in size could have easily doubled for an NFL linebacker, snickered.  “Couldn’t, Dude.  He was too hot.” Everyone but Leo laughed.

“I can’t keep him,” Leo said.  “There might be something the cops could match to something.  DNA maybe.  I don’t know, but they’d say I was an accessory to the crime.”

“You are an accessory, man.  You took the money.”

Leo shook his head.  They didn’t understand the situation.  “Okay, sure, but someone still has to get rid of him.”

“Yeah.”  Dude rammed his fist against Leo’s chest.  “And that someone is you.”

***

Back in the sanctuary of his office, Leo pulled open the bottom desk drawer and looked at the cremains now carefully horded in an empty coffee can.  Murray had been a big man, he decided.  There was a lot of him to dispose of.  But how?  It didn’t seem right to toss him in the Dumpster out back.  Besides, if found, the bits of bone that lingered were as incriminating as the pointing finger of an eagle-eyed victim picking out a perp in a police lineup.  He didn’t need Murray fingering him when all he’d done was take a bit of cash.

The unexpected jangle of the phone made him flinch and hastily shove the drawer closed.  “The gentleman is here to take Mrs. Farquharson to her memorial service,” the receptionist said.  “Should I send him back, Leo?”

“No!” Leo gasped.  “I mean, there’s no reason for him to come down here.  I was just on my way upstairs.  I’ll bring her up.”

He had to get control of himself, of the situation, Leo told himself.  If he looked guilty, someone would figure he was guilty.  It had happened before.  Of course, he had been guilty, but never of something as heinous as murder.  Not that he’d had a hand in the unfortunate Murray’s demise, but who would believe him if he jumped at every shadow?

There were a lot of shadows to be found at Pepperidge Funereal Services.  Bodies arrived from three counties so that the tastefully decorated rooms at various funeral homes no longer need worry about the distasteful scents that went with preparation of the dead.  Pepperidge handled it all: preservation and cremation.  In fact, the schedule that lay on his desk showed that there were a number of cremations on the schedule already.  Not all would have as carefully chosen urns as the late Agnes Farquharson.  And not all the living felt it necessary to reclaim their toasted relatives since doing so required payment of Pepperidge’s bill.  There were a number of urns and boxes on the utility shelves that lined Leo’s office, all waiting for forgetful kin to show up.

Leo reached for Mrs. Farquharson’s delicately decorated container and froze.  Who would know? he asked himself.  Answer: no one.  Agnes certainly would not be telling anyone, and he doubted if Murray, whoever he’d been, cared either way.

Just in case, Leo did a quick check down the hall outside the office door, then ducked back inside.  The lid of Mrs. Farquharson’s urn opened quickly.  He added a couple pinches of Murray to her remains.  Then, hastily wiping any residue of ash from his hand, Leo was on his way up the stairs, Agnes Farquharson and guest held reverently before him.

***

“Did you find who was responsible for that unknown’s pile of ashes?” Al Pepperidge asked a week later.

Leo nodded without looking up, busy once more arranging paperwork for the files.  It had taken a full dozen of the cremations stored on the shelves to clear Murray from the coffee can, but dispersed Murray had been.

“And who is this guest with now?” Pepperidge pursued.

Leo aligned his last document.  “With friends,” he murmured.  “With a few new friends.”

 

Find more from J.B. Dane here.

Author’s Duties

Author: George Geisinger

L. Vera’s Notes: Here’s a piece by a friend who I have a great admiration for. Below is a story about a man who has once been in a metal institution and how it feels to be out. It’s not a work of fiction because this story is about the author, who deals with his world with a scramble of words, which we read, thinking it to be a great story but in fact is completely true. This is not a work of fiction, this is a blog post from the mind of George Geisinger and is a good example of what we are looking for on “The Wall”.

Author’s Duties

The window blinds are pulled in my suite. Reaching the controls would be a difficult task for me. The stretch across the debris on the floor would be more trouble than it’s worth. The AC is just the right temperature for the way the weather is outside.

It’s gotten awfully dark out, all too soon for this early in the evening, for this time of year. It’s been threatening to rain around here all day.  Rain has been the talk of the house. I’ve gotten all the lights turned on in the room, earlier than one might think would be necessary.

I was out-of-doors earlier, sitting in our courtyard. The springtime weather was just heavenly, but I think that by this time, it’s finally doing a little bit of that raining outside that everyone’s been talking about. I think I’ll just sit here and surmise about it. I’ve got some work to do, and don’t really care all that much for what the weather’s doing. It’s just a conversation piece.

I’m secure enough right here in the big building. There’s nothing like the little showers of springtime, to brighten things up out-of-doors a bit. I live in a home for seniors, and my trip to go look out the door, would be quite the Odyssey, from my point of view. I might encounter the ancient siren’s or Medusa’s along the way, like the fabled Odysseus did.

The grass might be a little greener tomorrow, and the flowers might be a little more perky a little later on. One might wonder whether I ever actually go to the beach, living just a few miles away from a very popular one, but the answer just happens to be, no, I don’t bother. I happen to have an artificial hip now, and for me to be doing any amount of walking is a challenge for me. I really don’t feel any compulsion to try walking on sand, either. I’m just old enough now that I don’t dare fall again. A fall could be disastrous to my hip replacement.

I’ve been trying to focus on writing some more fiction, after having finished one story, but I’m having considerable difficulty fleshing out the second work for a full five thousand words. I don’t want anyone to feel cheated by the brevity of my work. I’ll be back to scraping the barrel trying to get some more substance for that story, whenever I’m done here. But it’s early, and I have some latitude.

There’s nothing to much going on in Assisted Living. We’ve had our supper, however filling it was or was not. There’s very little to complain about around here, from my point of view, but I refuse to join the ranks of those who perpetually complain about the food. It’s such a useless complaint.

All the new chefs are sent packing, almost by the end of day one, and we cannot seem to get anyone with sufficient credentials to manage our kitchen for us, because everyone who lives here is way too picky. Everyone is so impressed with how much money we pay to live here. The residents all want a five star chef to take care of us, but they don’t consider all the implications of such a situation.

A five star chef would demand a five star wage, and our very expensive residence would either have to become more expensive, or settle for a cook who knows what they’re doing. Our situation has reverted to the latter scenario, since we’ve dumped a host of chefs in the year or so that I’ve been here. I lived in a senior living facility up home, before I moved down to Dixieland, and all of our meals were superb, but there were those even there, who disagreed with me, too.

There is a semi-darkness outside, but there is no sound of any wind or rain out.

The day refuses to fold, though. It’s only a little after supper, and one gets to thinking about what more one can consume to feel a little more filled up, when one eats as sparingly as I do. No matter what I eat, I still gain weight. I can’t figure that out.

You might be interested to know that I fired my therapist today. I feel good about it, too. She had it coming. She was wasting my time, not listening to the issues I’ve gone there to talk about. Keeping me in the listener’s seat, while she marvels at such silly things as the origins of certain semantic expressions. She gave my writing a good little put me down the other day when I was there to see her, too.  I don’t have to pay money for that. I can get that for free anywhere anyone feels like being unkind. Besides all that, she was condemning my work, sight unseen. I’ve known some pretty uncouth therapists in my time.  Some were great, but some, like this last one, turned out to be down right disappointing.

You can find more of George’s Stories on Amazon and his blog.

You can also find an interview I did with him about the book we are both in called Burning Bridges: A Renegade Fiction Anthology.