Lead Us Not

He puts the cigarette in his mouth and lights it with a match, letting the match burn as he continues speaking, “I didn’t even give you a name, Inspector. What could you possibly arrest me for that I won’t deny by the time we walk out of this office?”

The Seventh Man

The Mercury pulled into the station with a sigh of the brakes and a dramatic release of white steam. Again, Ned Billows joined the men on the platform in low hats and denim shirts and set to moving sacks, pallets, and barrels to and fro. It was here that the small crew — the engineer, the fireman, and Ned Billows the brakeman — took their lunch. It was also the first time the crew of the Mercury saw the gunmen of the armored car. Four of them, two with Winchester rifles, two with double-barrel shotguns, all of them with Colts strapped to their hips at the low end of leather belts loaded with gleaming brass-colored bullets. 

Rip Crowley in Fox Osage: The Last Train of Cash MacLeod

The Great Northern had left Grand Forks before the dry, yellow prairie was touched with the sun’s first light. By mid-day, the whistle was crying long and loud as the train chuffed out of the weathered Sioux Falls station, heading southbound towards Wichita across the dismal plain.

# # # #

Alien: Desolation

“Whatever it is,” Jim says. “It can’t be bad enough for you to want to get it through who knows what the hell past the Black Line.”

# # # #

They Could Be Heroes

It’s true. The strong kid, laser beam girl, iron-skin guy — they have all been rumors for so long. Took better than a dozen years, but I finally got a source on the inside. No one too high-up, no one special. But I got blurry pictures and some details out of it. Once that was out there, my site blew up. Just a matter of time before there was a knock on the door.

# # # #

The Order of the Cerberus

The place, though, isn’t as bad as the noises I can hear on the other side of the wall in the first stall. I wouldn’t admit this to just anyone but it would give me nightmares. If I slept.

# # # #


She stood there, on the stoop. Her beautiful blue eyes lit up, hopeful, like two perfect oceans of possibility and life. Her eyes had been everything to him. Innocence, love, hope, perfection.

# # # #

The Stand

They had tailed Emerson and Gilley from Dr. Carter’s in New York, down to D.C. After that, they had to duck under the cover of a Miami airport newsstand to avoid them. Bought a Post and a magazine. A quick outfit change at a tourist shop next door, then hustled to the other side of the terminal. Booked a charter down to Rio via Havana.

# # # #

Rip Crowley in Fox Osage: The Colorado Kid

The horses slushed and slopped their way through the washed-out divots of the muddy trail. We were on our way beyond Harper’s Reach, the old, steep stone-faced mountain miles north of Fox Osage. In the distance, towards home, I saw bright lightning crackle to the ground. Still, I jumped at the clap of thunder that followed from the gray sky.

# # # #

Rip Crowley in Fox Oxage: Starlight

I listened to the sounds of the night. A mockingbird called through the brush, far off, maybe halfway across the lake. The cool wind rustled the tops of the trees and they whispered together. The ker-klack sound of the horses going down the trail past the lake was almost hypnotizing.

# # # #


Finally, as time begins to catch up with itself, the sound of a wailing siren pierces the distance. Only in that moment might anyone who saw what had happened at the Lucky Dragon Tea & Coffee shop have believed that help was on the way.

# # # #

Amelia Dare, Baby Girl Detective: The Case of the Creepy Crawlies

Toby Burnhouser was bigger than Brick, and he held my right arm down. Toby gritted his gums and breathed hard through his nose. He took his job as one of Jimmy’s henchmen a little too seriously. My right hand started to go numb as Burnhouser pushed down harder into the short-pile race-track play carpet.

# # # #

The Lady and the Swordsman

It all sounds great, doesn’t it?  Winning the lottery.  All those fantastic, beautiful things you’d do with the money.  But the truth is, it’s all just fantasy, and you and I know it.  You’re never going to win the lottery, never going to come within spitting distance of a million dollars, much less tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars.  So you don’t really know.

# # # #

The First Castle

We cannot hear the drums. But I know what Freyja has told me is true. The drums will come, the rhythm swelling like highland thunder, beyond Eilean Thioram to our west, beyond Eilean Glas, across the still of Loch Alsh, from the dark horizons of the deep waters.

# # # #

Rip Crowley in Fox Osage

The older one released the cylinder and spun it once. Then he tipped it back, emptying the six chambers of the cylinder. Then he let one shimmering, gold bullet in between his black-dirty thumb and forefinger, and loaded one chamber.

# # # #

Amelia Dare, Baby Girl Detective: The Case of the Heavy Patsy

In this line of work, you have to know when to use the carrot, and when to use the stick. Thud was nearly twice my size though probably a month younger. All he’d have to do is fall over on me, even a little bit, and I’m pretty sure I’d break. I motioned O’Shaughnessy to watch lookout – see any of the Biggies coming back into the room, distract. He knew what to do.

# # # #

The Unopened Box

The older bald man sits in a light-rose wingback chair. What look like two security guards stand behind him, motionless. They haven’t taken off their sunglasses yet. It doesn’t look like they’re going to.

# # # #

The Prince and the Unicorn

In the clearing ahead, the brush rustled and the pebbles at the edge of the stream registered the sound of hooves. As the blood in his veins turned as black as the evening shadows, he steeled himself for the shot. And for his final choice.

# # # #

The Last King of Siam

Sitting in the seat of the big Cadillac, he clicked the freshly loaded clip back into the Beretta and checked the safety, slid it comfortably back into the holster, like a hand going into a waiting pocket. He was glad the running was over, glad that he would be able to ask for the bonus without any guilt this time.

# # # #

Red Base 7

The Praetorians will take me, I’m sure of it. One last walk down the low-lit red corridor to the mess hall to be with my girls.

# # # #


They hit the switch, there was an electric crackle, and all I could see was hazy white out the window. I felt myself drifting, and then I saw nothing but blue. No other colors, not even close.

# # # #

The Hermit

I’d gone to the place of the hermit not too many years before expecting the usual. Dusty brushes with horse hair at the end of a stick, ash from an old cigar and some crushed shell thrown around the room, the Ace, the Queen, the Five of Hearts and Two of Spades on the table next to a glass ball and a chicken foot.

# # # #

Sacrifice to the Gypsy Monkey

He had found it almost by accident, the strange stone monkey, an artifact worth a lot to an old guy in Chicago. Three days later he was on a cot in a hut in Fortaleza in the depths of something a lot like malaria. It was the monkey – the Gypsy Monkey, they called it – and it spoke to him in his twisted dreams. Make your choice, make your sacrifice.

# # # #

A Conversation with an Angel

Two days later I was sitting on my small balcony wondering what to expect, when the breeze shifted and the evening rain clouds rolled in. I ordered a pizza and ran down to the market for a six-pack. The rain had just started plinking on the roof when I heard the knock. I knew who it was.

# # # #

The Pure Sons of Liberty

The Alliance, the last of the war frigates, bound tight to the dock by the tie-lines, held fast and creaked against the sharp chop off the harbor. A brackish mix of brown-white froth assailed her starboard. The thick ropes pulled against the pegs of the dock, and as she moved against the unrelenting tide, against the backdrop of gray Atlantic clouds buried in the horizon, the whole world seemed to rise and fall in a neverending whorl of forlorn desolation.

# # # #


His eyes glanced at the polished desk to the right of the fireplace, papers stacked meticulously. A green lamp, a set of gold pens. Something that looked like some official stamp. Some envelopes.

A gun.

# # # #

The 60 of Operation Loki

In 1977, as you may or may not know, NASA launched the twin deep-space probes Voyager 1 and Voyager 2.  To this day, both of them carry a gold-plated phonograph depicting the sounds of life on Earth.  Carl Sagan himself helped pick out the more than one-hundred images and the music that each vessel carries.

The idea is to put a happy face of life on Earth, should either of the Voyagers encounter alien life.

# # # #

The Bay

The blade goes in, fast and easy. Butter and a hot knife. One hand has a good grip, pushing the knife in-between the ribs, past muscle into the heart and the left lung. One hand on his mouth. Can feel his hot breath on my palm.

# # # #

Manna of St. Nicholas of Bari

I have a special way of working.  No guns.  Don’t like the goddam things, and I like the kin d of people who use ‘em even less.  Noisy, messy.  Easy to trace, too.
I have a better way.  Cleaner.  Easier.

# # # #

The Extraordinary Rendition

How do you lose a body on a plane this small?

He’d heard her the first time.  And if he hadn’t, he could have read it on her face.  One of her best features: she couldn’t keep a secret.

“What?” he said again, anyway, the husky voice nearly lost to the heavy thrum of the Curtiss-Wrights roaring outside the fuselage.

“Gone!  It’s… he’s just… gone!” She threw her hands up into the air and tossed her lush, auburn hair from side to side, looking up and down the passenger cabin again.

# # # #

Twilight & Brimstone

This story was one of ten selected by the readers and editors of Creative Loafing for their 2010 Fiction Contest.

Like most everyone else in Florida, Twilight Janus Dawson had come to the Sunshine State for the conveniences but stayed for the complications.  These days, T.J., as he would have been known to his friends if he’d had any, just told folks he liked the warm weather.  In fact, he found the warmer temperatures preferable to the cold New York City winter nights he worked as a beat cop.

Today, though, was hot as hell. In a room with a bare light bulb humming.  Handcuffed around a chair bolted to the floor.  The windows covered with heavy dark cloth and duct tape, no air circulating.  Him and six guys in a room that comfortably held four.

# # # #


It was the first night, Monday, when Ren knew something was wrong in the room of the old hotel. He didn’t see anything, but he could feel it. There are things that feel right and things that feel wrong. At that moment in the room, in the middle of the night, at two forty-six a.m., which he knew because the red light of the alarm was right next to his head, everything in the room felt wrong.

# # # #


Things don’t always work the way we think they gonna work.  Things change, some for better.  Not always.

Now he live out what we used to call Osgood Point.  Call it Clam Bayou now.

Like I say, things change.

# # # #