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As the Crow Flies

pitbullAndrew Vachss uses storytelling to teach, to protect, and to make the world a better place. This week, we celebrate the publication of his new novel, The Weight, with an original story and much more to come.

1.

Alfred Hitchcock is dead. He’s lying there dead, and I don’t know what to do about it.

I wasn’t surprised when I found him dead on the ground. The woods behind our house are wild—-a country where Darwin makes the rules. I’m no philosopher to be saying that; it’s just that I’ve been in places like that myself, so I know how they work.

Alfred Hitchcock was one of those crow-raven hybrids you see around this piece of the coast all the time–too big for a crow, but without that classic thick raven’s beak. You couldn’t miss him, even at a distance. He had a white streak along one side of his head, like the fire-scar a bullet leaves when it just kisses you on the cheek as it goes by.

He hadn’t shown up for a few days, but that didn’t worry Dolly. She loves all her animals, but she doesn’t regard them as pets. “They have their own ways,” is what she always says. Continue reading “As the Crow Flies”

Midnight Oil

As a special Halloween treat, we have a short story from Xeric-Award winning graphic novelist Neil Kleid. The perfect fit for the occasion. Enjoy!

Patrick Checker lost his mind sometime between final count and lights out.

Frank Day, horror novelist and convicted Communist sympathizer, wouldn’t have minded except that he was sitting across from Checker at the time. Fingers followed Checker’s brain, then his teeth. They’d been debating the structures of stories and Checker, a blacklisted Hollywood screenwriter, adamant that solid characters made up for formulaic plots, had been refuting the argument Day had constructed over the last hour when the right half of the screenwriter’s forehead slid past his eyes and into his nasal cavity, choking him as skull, brain, and hair joined it inside his throat.

 Day, a large man carrying the air of a history professor with deep-set eyes, prone to favor herringbone jackets and a Vandyke beard, moved to take Checker’s hands but had trouble maintaining a grip when the fingers came off joint by joint. He shouted for the guards as Checker pitched forward into a pool of his own dissolving muscle, blood, and bone. The body shuffled, stumbled, and fell to the ground with a sickening splash that sounded like overripe melons being pulped with a single, gleeful hammer.

Continue reading “Midnight Oil”

B & E: A Frank Armstrong Story (Part II)

Frank Armstrong is the star of Joshua Hale Fialkov’s acclaimed graphic novel, Tumor. “B&E: A Frank Armstrong Story”  follows Frank’s continuing adventures in prose, with original illustrations from Noel Tuazon. Missed Part I? Start reading here.

The address was in the canyons, and I don’t have a car, so I catch a bus up to Hollywood and Laurel and hoof it the rest of the way.   More and more people have been moving up here, to get out of the city and into the woods.  Except, there’s so many damn people that your neighbor can knock on your window to borrow a cup of sugar.

I’ll never understand people’s need to live up windy roads that are too narrow and on rock that likes to crumble when it rains.  This used to be where all the hippie fucks lived, back when I was in my twenties and cared about that shit.  We’d drive in from Glendora and try to find Jim Morrison’s house.

For the record, it’s the red one behind the little store a little ways up the hill.  He mentioned it in some song, which had we had half a brain we would’ve figured out.  I always thought he was being deep.

But most of the freaks got driven out or became adults or whatever happens to rich kids with enough money to be total fuck ups and not wind up on the streets.

The fact that this wacko lived up here didn’t surprise me.  There used to be plenty of places in the city to get a nice spread with a yard and a smidge of privacy.  Now you have to go out to the suburbs or pay a fortune and a half to live on the beach.  This guy would fit what I’d assume a serial killer would be.

Comfortable.  White.  A fucking deviant.

The hike up Laurel isn’t so bad.  It’s going up the side streets that’ll kill you.  I stop for a cigarette every few minutes, and it only takes me thirty or forty minutes to get up to the house of Leonard Malle.  From the file, I know that he’s an attorney at one of these entertainment firms, probably working to get an extra stack of cash for some piece of shit actor who already has more money than every resident of my beloved Barclay Hotel will ever see combined.  He moved out here from Texas at twenty four, passed the bar the next summer, and got a job at the offices of Cohen, Davis, Greenblatt, and Cohen (no relation).

He quickly moved up, and when one of the other Junior Partners decided to split off, he went with, and they formed Malle and Stern.

This is what I read while I sit in a shrub waiting for the son of a bitch to make an appearance.

Continue reading “B & E: A Frank Armstrong Story (Part II)”

B & E: A Frank Armstrong Story

Frank Armstrong is the star of Joshua Hale Fialkov’s acclaimed graphic novel, Tumor. Stop by today and tomorrow on MulhollandBooks.com for Frank’s continuing adventures in prose, with original illustrations from Noel Tuazon.

Thursday at the King Eddy is just like every other day.  Except this Thursday is what they call Everybody’s Payday.  It’s that rare month where disability checks, V.A. Pension checks, and the last of the month fall on the same day.  It might as well be Christmas Eve it’s so busy in here.  My usual stool’s occupied, so I take up a small table in the corner and stare at the girl behind the bar so she knows what I want.

The past few months have been a blur of gin stains seeping through nicotine stains and sopping up into my skin.  Camonte cut me loose after what went down, and I realized that aside from being a mediocre hitman, an errand boy for thugs and murderers, and a drunk, my prospects were nil.

And so it goes.

Drunk by ten thirty in the am, wandering through downtown aimlessly from noon ‘til five, then back to King Eddy’s for the dinner rush.  King Eddy’s serves food, so between the booze, the cigarettes, and plates of one-dollar meatloaf, my life pretty much revolves around this place.

And the Nickel, around the corner.  That’s where my wife died.  They also have a helluva good omelette and these bacon donuts which sound revolting, but, man, they really hit the spot.

I’m proud to say I keep my schedule daily.  If a man ain’t got nothing else, at least he can be regular.  So, like regular, Dennis from behind the bar walks over with my one-dollar plate of meatloaf and mashed potatoes, with a double of bourbon on the side.

“How you doin’ Frank?”

“Same old.”

“Some guy was here lookin’ for you. Stocky, looks like a cop.”

“You mind pointing him out without pointing me out?”

“Of course.  Comes with the dinner.”

Some fat ass cop is lookin’ for me.  Fantastic.  Maybe Camonte’s pinned Rosa’s murder on me.  Hell, maybe ‘pinned’ isn’t the right word.  Turned me in, or gave me up.  I didn’t kill her mind you, I just may as well have.

I hesitated.  There was a single moment when I could’ve done something.  I could’ve stopped him from shooting, or at least gotten in the way of the bullet.

I drink to forget.

It doesn’t work.

Continue reading “B & E: A Frank Armstrong Story”