Friday, March 30, 2018

With Boots On by Bruce Costello

In Bruce Costello's Western flash, grief-stricken Dwight is having a quiet night in his horse-drawn cab.

Twilight. Snowflakes swirl around the street lamps. Dwight sits hunched on the driver's seat of his hansom cab. He's covered in snow and motionless, like a limestone gargoyle. His old nag, too, is unmoving, her head down, and ears held back, as if lost in peevish thought. Dwight and the mare have not budged for over an hour. They left the yard before sunset and still not a single fare.

The street is silent, apart from the judge's gas buggy that goes belching by. No drunken cowboys gallop past saloons and dance halls, high in their saddles, shooting and hollering.

Gunfire has not been heard in De Soto City for many years. The McCleary gang is just a memory, apart from Ma McCleary, who Dwight often visits with flowers in the lunatic asylum where she lives.

Monday, March 26, 2018

The Abduction by Beryl Ensor-Smith

Christina du Plessis is spooked by an abduction in the nearby South African town of Waterfontein, and gets a little jumpy on her next trip to the mall; by Beryl Ensor-Smith.

Hans du Plessis had hardly arrived home after a frustrating morning spent in Waterfontein where he had gone to pay a parking fine when he was pounced upon by Christina, his wife. Taking one look at her agitated face, he knew she was on the brink of an hysterical outburst which would make heavy demands on him. Calling upon every ounce of patience he possessed, he asked calmly:

"What's upset you, my girl?"

"Hans, criminals are now targeting towns in farming areas like ours! A horrible incident in Waterfontein was broadcast on the local news station." Christina was in such a state she was hyperventilating. "In the parking area at the main shopping mall, when a woman opened her boot to offload her shopping, she was grabbed from behind and hurled into it. She was found traumatised some miles along the N1 to Johannesburg, dumped on the verge minus her handbag, the devil driving off in her new top-of-the-range Mercedes! Oh, Hans, I go to that mall. Is this how I will meet my end?" she wailed.

Friday, March 23, 2018

The Case of the James Bond Killer by David W Landrum

When Sherlock accepts a case in which a killer is re-enacting scenes from James Bond, his American assistant Dr Ophelia Turnberg proves indispensable.

Sherlock Holmes Case #2, 1966

Narrated by his assistant, Dr. Ophelia Turnberg

The scene in Goldfinger where they show the woman who has been murdered by being painted gold shocked me. The camera focused on her suddenly. A scary blare of discordant brass music played. It made me jump. Piers, who was sitting next to me in the theater that night, smiled, and took my hand.

It was a little creepy, then, when Holmes called me in to examine the body of a girl who had been killed - really killed, not theatrically killed - in this very manner. Of course, she did not die by being painted gold. I told him as much.

"You can't suffocate from your skin being painted over," I said. "Your skin absorbs only small amounts of oxygen. If you can breathe through your mouth or nose, you won't suffocate." I looked at toxicology report. "It says here she was poisoned. Cyanide. Whoever did this poisoned her and then painted her."

Monday, March 19, 2018

The Moment of Truth by Bonnie Veaner

Bonnie Veaner's character decides never to lie to her children, but it proves harder than anticipated.

Lying Low

I was waiting in the checkout line at Target in front of a screaming toddler whose exasperated mother was pushing him in his stroller. I glanced back to see what all the fuss was about, when the mother, clearly at her wit's end, knelt down and locked eyes with her son. "See that lady?" She pointed up at me. "She's going to spank you if you don't stop crying."

Taken aback, I looked directly at the little boy. "No, I'm not," I said. "She's lying." Might as well get used to it kid, I thought. Adults are all the same; every damned one of them lies.

The mother bristled at my response to her child - clearly, I was no ally. She stood up and rummaged around in her purse until she found an old, half-eaten lollipop. She sucked off the dirt and popped the candy in her son's mouth. He grabbed the lollipop stick and stopped crying; he won the battle. An experienced manipulator, he had played his mother with the precision of a military general. This kid was the Sun Tzu of toddlers.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Remission by Charlie Fish

Archer Lemont is about to fulfill his childhood dream of becoming an astronaut, but the journey will be longer than anticipated.

On an overcast afternoon in late July, hundreds of us stood shoulder to shoulder in the big plaza outside Middlesex Vocational College, waiting for our futures to be decided. The air was thick with humidity and tension, all eyes facing Speaker's Plinth.

"Brown, Camelia: Lunar 4 Geomechanics."

Dean Porter stood atop the plinth wearing a ceremonial gown and a stern expression that made it look like he was delivering a eulogy. As each name and job was read out, there was a ripple somewhere in the crowd. Mostly back-patting and congratulations; sometimes commiserations.

"Dyer, Felix: Lunar 1 Planning."

I stood with Fred, Don and the Olivers (there were two of them), the guys I'd grown closest to while we'd been studying there. We were all hoping to get placed together, on the same mine at least, but it wasn't going to happen. Lunar Corps and the other mining agencies placed grads like us according to academic performance only. No mere social considerations held water.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Outside In by Clifford Hui

When conservationists Matthew and Richard head to the Aussie outback to catch crocs, they take a young aspiring photojournalist with them; by Clifford Hui.

Irritation filled Matthew's voice as he looked at Roger. "We're catching crocodiles. We can't be baby-sitting any tourists."

"I'm with you on that, but Steve's starting a photo journalism career, and Todd thought our project would make a good subject for him. I said I'd talk it over with you."

"Shit. That's even worse. We all need to focus on our project. Having someone there with his own agenda will be nothing but trouble."

"That's what I think. However, Steve is Todd's son, and we have one more project permit that needs Todd's signature."

"Shit. I didn't know Todd was such an asshole."

Friday, March 9, 2018

Last Chance by Edward Lee

Vernon leaves prison after twelve long years and wonders if he really has a choice about his future; by Edward Lee.

They tried to goad him by spitting on him, talking about his mom, his wife, his daughter. They were trying to get him to fight, lose control, so his incarceration would be extended another ninety days for disorderly conduct in a government owned building. When the guards finally came to escort him out of the prison cell block and down the hallway, all he could do was laugh at his former cellmates. And that set their voices and curses at a pandemonium.

Walking past the security checkpoints, Vernon was taken to the prison outtake area; he was given his things sealed in plastic wrap. Inside the wrap were his clothes, his keys, and fifty two dollars, still there in a money clip in his back pocket. He went inside a room, changed his prison clothes for civilian, and he came out of the room a free man.

Monday, March 5, 2018

The Corn Crib by Sharon Frame Gay

Fourteen-year-old Izzy Cuthbert recounts the ransacking of her Nebraskan farm by a group of Sioux; by Sharon Frame Gay.

Journal of Elizabeth Cuthbert

The day the Sioux attacked our farm, I was in the hog pen with my mother, tossing scraps to the pigs from last night's supper. Mama grabbed my arm and pulled me towards the small corn crib in the corner of the pen. She shoved me in, covered my body with cobs.

"Indians are coming. Don't you move even one bit, Izzy. Lie still and don't come out, no matter what you hear until me or Papa call your name."

Before I could blink, she closed the door and ran off, skirt rustling against her legs like the corn husks in the field behind us. Through a small crack in the slats, I saw her boots heading for the barn.

She shouted for my father and older brother. "Jake! Isaac!"

Our horses bolted in the corral, kicking up dust and galloping round and round, whinnying at the Indian ponies as they thundered towards the farm.

Friday, March 2, 2018

The Dark Side of Light by Tony Billinghurst

A stolen notebook tells a chilling 200-year old tale of a woman whose husband makes a terrible error of judgment; by Tony Billinghurst.

I was sitting at my desk when he came into the room without knocking; he was still wearing gloves.

"How'd it go?" I asked.

"Sweet. You were right, the alarms were easy to fix - some house. You should see it, antiques all over the place, real class stuff."

"You sure none of you were seen?"

"No, it was nice clean job."

"Good haul?"

"Yea - we got loads. Here, I got a pressy for you, found it in a bedroom." He took a small notebook from his pocket and handed it to me. "You like history, thought you'd be interested."

I took the book.