CRIMEWAVE 12: HURTS
The wraparound cover art is by Ben Baldwin
Singularity by Melanie Tem
When Roxy first showed up in town she was sixteen and looked a lot younger, skinny with caramel-colored braids and pretty gray eyes her face hadn’t quite grown into yet and a drinking problem bigger than she was. I was not quite thirty-two, plenty old enough in this neck of the woods to be her daddy. But father-daughter wasn’t what we were, nor big brother-little sister, and for sure we have never been lovers in the usual sense of the word. Right from the start, we’ve been friends. Nothing more precious or more strange in this world.
The Only Broken Blonde by Simon Avery
As a child I used to bring broken things home. After my mother upped and left us, my father and I moved around a lot. Every couple of months, we’d hurriedly load up his old Ford Cortina Estate with the boxes and bags that constituted our lives and drive away to another district, another town, another county.
Bless by Stephen Volk
I can’t believe I started today like any other boring day with the same list of menial tasks and drudgery mapped out in front of me. (That of course is a woman’s lot, as we all know.) If I’d known then what I know now, there’d have been a spring in my step. I’d have turned up the radio. I’d have danced. But we don’t know what’s ahead of us, do we? Any of us. That’s the tragedy. That’s the joy, too. On a day like today, anyway. I didn’t wash my hair this morning, which I should have, but it’s bitter out in the shower in the utility room and I prefer to stay wrapped up in my duvet till the last possible moment I have to face the day, when the alarm radio has wittered the Today programme for an hour then stopped. There were many, many days when that silence didn’t rouse me at all, I just slipped away and was gone and wanted to be gone, gone forever. I so wanted that. And so many days I didn’t want to step outside the front door, but Lest made me. Till he was sick of making me. Till he was sick of all the effort coming from him, he said. It was like a big rock he couldn’t get uphill any more.
The Simpson Frames by Antony Mann
“I’m looking for a pair of glasses,” I said.
The barman of The Ostler’s Arms raised an eyebrow like it was the only part of his face he’d figured out how to move. He was jowly, with one of those tufty beards shaven to a finish at the bottom of one of his chins. For some reason he reminded me of a jelly bean, but he had a voice like bored gravel.
Cheap Rent by Janice Law
Nick hated the house from the moment he saw it in ’63 when Uncle Vinnie stopped his big Chevy Caprice out front and said, “Rent it to you cheap.” Uncle Vinnie had a horror of getting “coloreds” or Puerto Ricans or foreigners as tenants. But though his uncle was willing to cut the rent to keep it in the family, Nick saw right off that nobody was going to stand in line for this dump, not even at Uncle Vinnie’s idea of cheap rent.
By Night He Could Not See by Joel Lane
The first Jason knew about it was a story in the Express & Star. A 46-year-old woman had been found dead on a train between Walsall and Aldridge. Cause of death unknown. The only sign of violence was the paint on her face and hands, which might have been daubed on before or after her death. The police wondered if it was linked to cult activity. They gave her name: Gail Warner. There was no photo. At the end of the brief report, the journalist noted that in the last year, two other dead people in the UK had been found smeared with paint in the same way.
What Grief Can Do by Stephen Bacon
When her stepfather opened the door, Tina’s first thought was he looks almost dead himself.
But a faint spark flared in his face when he saw her, enough to banish the sallow colour and the gaunt emaciation. Grief can do that, she thought. Grief can allow death to touch those nearby.
Scenes From Country Life by Tim Lees
“Course we wouldn’t hurt you, mate. Course not. You be a good lad, an’ we’ll all get on just dandy, eh? No probs. Deal?”
But Duffy wouldn’t answer, crouching there, the collar round his neck, the short chain stapled to a concrete block big as a suitcase: class stuff, this was, custom made, copied from some medieval dungeon somewhere. Not that cheapo S&M gear some crews use.
“Oh dear oh dear. We got a silent type.”
Night Fishing by James Cooper
We all have secrets. I understand that now better than ever. It’s part of who we are; what makes us look at the world with suspicion, our eyes narrow and calculating as we lie awake in the night, probing at the mystery, the thing locked inside each one of us that has the capacity to change everything. Like a time bomb waiting to explode.
Unfinished Business by Christopher Priest
He was standing at an open window and he was naked. He was pressing binoculars to his eyes and he was pointing them at me.
It was a shock reversal of voyeurism. I was the woman being watched, peered at through binoculars, privacy invaded, possibly at risk. But he was naked, exposed, vulnerable. I turned away in embarrassment, but as soon as I did I realised how irrational it was, so I looked again.
Dodge County by Danny Rhodes
Ethan Stone found himself dating a girl in Milwaukee, driving the seventy miles from Waupun each and every weekend to be with her. He’d never been successful with women, but something clicked with Cerys from the beginning. She kept talking about this thing called a ‘twin flame’ and looking into his eyes when she said it. It wasn’t a chore to drop into his Chevy each Friday when his shift ended, lug up onto the highway, drive south past the farms and the small towns, arrive at her place with the working week behind him, immerse himself in another life. Late on Sunday evenings he’d drive back through the same Wisconsin countryside, to his recognisable life, his little apartment above the pharmacy overlooking the correctional facility, to his job at the lawnmower factory, to the big machine that punched the holes into the sheet metal, and sometimes he felt, on bad days, into his very soul. He’d pull on his earphones and retreat into that severed world, spend his days thinking about Cerys. It wasn’t just the sex that saw him through those solitary hours. A lot of the time he liked to think about simply sharing a life with her, quiet meals in nice restaurants, going to the movies, taking her to Miller Park to watch the Brewers, things like that. He liked to think of a future. They had already started talking about one. There was just the business of having to deflect her questions about his income. He’d lied about that at the outset, dug himself a nasty hole. The hole got just a little bit deeper each time he saw her. He wondered if her talk about twin flames would dry up when he finally revealed the truth about what they paid a guy who engineered machine parts for sit-on lawnmowers, a guy who’d done that and nothing else for fifteen nondescript years.
The Space That Runs Away With You by Steven J. Dines
A motorway runs through my brain tonight. Loud traffic – thought traffic – crams every lane, bumper to bumper, refusing me any hope of sleep. I get up and walk the darkness. I should switch on a light, I know; four nights isn’t long enough to get accustomed to all of the tics and tricks of a new place. But Heather is still asleep somewhere behind me, and the room at the end of the landing, softly breathing, means Max is alive too –
Gator Moon by Ray Cluley
The body looked bigger by moonlight. A six foot wedge of tarpaulin wrapped top, middle and bottom with electrical tape, it sat in the flatbed of the truck looking bulkier than it had before. Maybe because now they had to move it. Had to bury it.
Nate and Boyce stared at it a while. The moon was red in the sky, a bloody eye looking with them and not caring what it saw.
“Alligator moon,” Nate said, seeing it.
Trial by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
They never tell you how much it’s going to hurt. They never compliment you for having the strength to sit, day after day, in the wooden benches – pews, some judges call them – and listen to the prosecuting attorney, who is supposed to be on your side, describe how the monster across the aisle murdered your daughter.
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