30 Shades of Darkness

 

        I've been told by a close friend that I have a dark side.

       Mmmm! Where did that come from? My only usual four letter cuss word is "damn." The others are saved - for impact. But it's true that many of these 30 eclectic short stories reflect the dark side of life - sometimes subtly, other times grossly, but always in the latter I have tried to lighten the load.

      One critic wrote of a story he found too distressing to finish, but I haven't changed a word! He is, after all, a sensitive Piscean and for every MA-rated story there is a G or a PG and very little cussing.

      The reality, of course, is that the world can be a dark place, so no character in these stories will stop to smell the roses.

     But there are some gentle souls, some innocent victims, happy endings and comeuppence in the twists and turns along the way.

         My influences are many ~ the films of Alfred Hitchcock, the short stories of Jeffrey Archer, the comic genius of Larry David (Curb Your Enthusiasm, Seinfeld) and sometimes even South Park, from the evil of Cartman to the innocence of Butters. 

           Oh, and I did have a wicked uncle.

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  Warden Reynolds met the man’s glassy gaze and knew that Dwayne Mason Marshall had breathed his last. But protocol demanded that he should flutter his fingertips over the dead man's eyelashes and give the body a gentle nudge, just to make sure. - Devil's Doorway

 

  Sarah’s murder was a work in progress that took shape in Harold’s mind’s eye as he soaked in his ritual Sunday bath. He imagined it would be clean and not at all messy. He could never snuff the Snapdragon by spilling blood and guts. He just didn’t have the stomach for that.  - To Kill A Snapdragon

 

  The witness stood on the edge of the gravesite that he himself had dug. The terror he had suffered was reason enough to keep quiet but he had been led like a lamb to imminent slaughter and the need to resist niggled like a weeping sore. - Snitch in the Ditch

 

  The primitive lift shuddered to a halt somewhere between the 10th and 11th floors, which triggered an alarming shower of debris, clattering onto the roof. It is an unwritten rule that strangers do not speak in lifts and Michael Ross said nothing, except for the whispered cussing of “shit, shit, shit” when the xylophone of buttons failed to respond. - Down to Earth

 

   On the other end of the line came the pause one fears when something reprehensible has been said. Sandra's voice  thinned. An early morning start would prevent her from popping over for a visit. He detected a tone of dismissal that brought pangs of pain, like darts to the heart. After a third lonely beer, Josh rested his head on the sofa and listened as irregular heartbeats thrummed in his eardrums. He'd suffered from arrhythmia for decades, but it seemed his restless heart found a voice when he picked up the phone again. - Day of Reckoning

 

   Oblivious to the bewildered stares of his NOLA (New Orleans, Louisiana) homicide squad colleagues, Detective Karl Bonaduce burdened his head in his hands, leant forward to smother the paper clutter on his desk and groaned so loudly that onlookers thought they were witness to a seizure. ‘I think we’ve lost another one, Sam,’ Bonaduce said, listlessly raising a crumpled sheet of paper in one hand while the other supported his sorrow. - Dead Letter

 

  Geoffrey placed the hair dryer at the flat end of the bath and switched on the current. He watched gloomily as steam rose from the hot running water and likened it to a spirit rising; a life drifting away. ‘You’re a decrepit old dud, Dunstan,’ he whined, ‘and not a single soul on planet Earth will miss you.’ - Pin Back Your Ears and Smile

 

  Grace Mollett wasn’t a ‘killer’ in the literal sense but she had hatched a diabolical plan to ensure her tormenter would wind up in hospital for at least a week, with any luck, if only to relieve a smidgen of her pain. Randy Raymond went whacko the night Grace refused him due to pain in her private parts.  - Cutting Board Killer

 

  The world in 3011 was a harsh and inhospitable place, dominated by a corporation that had claimed the former planet Earth as its own and renamed it UNICCORN. In the wake of Global Warming and the catastrophic Great Famine of the third millennium, UNICCORN (United Intelligence Chip Corporation) had determined that humankind would be obliterated if allowed to repeat mistakes of the past. - ThirtyEleven

 

  Bill Ogilvy’s anger was perpetually on the boil, like pumpkin in a pot left simmering until all the goodness and nourishment had leached out of it. His relationship with Doug Hannon had been cordial at first – as civil as two sheep farmers could be on adjoining properties when they were competing for price in the same markets. Maybe there were underlying factors, bitterness and envy among them, but it was the dirt road and a persistent westerly wind that caused most of the acrimony that seethed from Bill’s side. - Like a Lamb to the Slaughter

 

  Shattered fragments of gnome jutted like islands in a sea of red beside Jack McKenzie’s mangled head. A plastic fly swat caked in blood was glued to his wispy grey hair; his legs crossed at the ankles in a typical ‘dead man’s fall’. Jack's terrier howled in furious protest as the killer rummaged through the old man’s tangled pile of odd socks and threadbare Y-fronts until he found what he was looking for. - Blood Red and the Eighth Dwarf

 

  The doorbell chimed on the stroke of noon. Not once, but bingabong, bingabong, bing, loud and insistent, bringing an end to a peaceful summer Sunday. Rebecca Silverman was at first alarmed, then terrified when a well-built young man with long blond hair, naked to the waist except for a messy tableau of tattoos, lurched through the front door followed by a skinnier youth being towed by an ugly black dog. - Mind Over Matter

 

  ‘She was high and loose on some kind of hallucinogen when the car smashed into her – or she smashed into it – and her delirium may have saved her,’ the doctor said. ‘Had she fallen from the bonnet on to her head she’d be laid out on a cold slab right now, rather than a warm bed.’ The victim was heavily sedated when Theresa Perry arrived at the hospital anxious to see if this girl still breathing was the daughter she reported missing a month ago and had feared dead. - Exchange of Life

 

  ‘Be immortalised’, the ad read seductively in the gay magazine I concealed between the broadsheets to deceive the newsagent. ‘Award-winning artist, 23, requires young models with good physiques...’ The creep responded to my email with unseemly haste and accepted me for the job sight unseen. They usually did. ‘Tall, 18-y-o smooth, honey blonde, blue eyes, gym fit.’ Such descriptions ignite the imagination of gay guys. Even straight guys, like me, might check out someone like that, just to compare, of course. - Model Thief

 

  Feigning delirium as best he could Malcolm McGruder bought some time. His head was swathed in bandages. Dried blood caked to his wound caused an itch he could not scratch, but he seemed to itch everywhere. The police had already visited the ward to interview him. His vision was blurred but he knew they were cops. Why else would they want to know ‘Why?’, ‘Where?’ and ‘Did you?’ - Attack of the Itchy Grub. - Attack of the Itchy Grub

 

  ‘Bella, Bella, Bella! All you must do is tell me where Carlo is. Tell me where he is right now and I will not snap your fingers one by one. Nothing is more painful. You will want to die after the first and you will die, I promise if there is need to break three. So tell me where he is...you have beautiful fingernails, by the way... - The Defence Arrests

 

  Old Lady twitches, trembles and fidgets in her sleep as Meggy wonders, worry etched into the crinkles of her eyes, what on earth the dear thing is dreaming about that could so unsettle her? Many times in the past she has thought she should awaken the old girl, to reassure her that, whatever it is, Missy – the secret name only she and her beloved whippet share – is there to feed and care for her and to stroke the demons away whenever they come to haunt her. - Old Lady's Dream

 

  Father had often comforted Janet when her nightmares worsened, but for once she was sleeping soundly when – hairy, burly and naked except for a pair of baggy boxer shorts and a wristwatch – he came to kiss her goodnight. Janet blinked into semi-consciousness and caught a glimpse of his watch: 1.25am if she wasn’t mistaken. ‘There, there sleepyhead,’ he whispered in the prowling light, ‘nothing’s gonna hurt my little princess while Daddy is here.’ -

Terror By Torchlight

 

  Hayden Sim was minding his own business, stowing his carry-on bag in the overhead compartment when he noticed intense scrutiny from the fat man wedged into seat 66C on the aisle. He’d requested a window seat and hoped to God the vacant seat would not be occupied by anyone else the size of a baby elephant. ‘I’m sorry,’ the man said, leaning across the empty seat to accost his companion with unwanted conversation and the smell of stale garlic, ‘I thought I recognised you, but I’ve mistaken you for a favourite actor.’ - Strangers on a Plane

 

  Nosey Parker found a novel way to pillage and pilfer from fragile old folk by preying on their precious pets. The parrot-beaked thief kept a house full of cats and loved them all dearly, but his dependence on pets for companionship and his very purpose in life made him realise that lonely old people would pay to protect them. - The Heavy Petting of Nosey Parker

 

  Patrice Clutterbuck awoke at 3.30am and picked up a dog-eared paperback she’d purchased for fifty cents at a local market, thinking it might be an easy-to-read murder mystery ­­­­– something of the Patricia Cornwell persuasion. Instead, Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood was a non-fiction novel about the random slaying of a Kansas farming family (Herbert and Bonnie Clutter and their teenage children, Nancy and Kenyon) who were bound, gagged, shot and stabbed by thrill-killers in 1959. It wasn’t the best choice of ‘light’ reading for anyone home alone in a vast weatherboard place that was strikingly similar to the ghostly grey images of the slaughterhouse featured in that scarifying book. - Fear of the Unknown

 

  Lydia Carroll-Lewis’s meetings always started exactly at 9.11am because the numbers held a weird – some say sub-human – fascination for her. She was such a stickler for punctuality that she had once scolded her cat in front of a house guest and denied it food when not at its bowl at 5.55pm - its designated feed time before the six o’clock news. - Rush Hour

 

   Kenny Cochrane didn’t arouse much suspicion at first, but he certainly turned a few heads. His skirts were too short; his hair too high. He might not have looked much out of place in Sydney’s King Cross or Melbourne’s Fitzroy Street, but in quiet country towns he was an oddity – too long in the legs and too broad in the shoulders to be immune from the stares of local machos and matrons. - Sweet Transvestite

 

   Gavin Klein always liked to be a step ahead and was furious when he learned about the Coronet coup by telegram.  He could have bought the old fleapit opposite the Paradise for five times the price Davis paid; he could have gutted the place and one day, turn it into a multiplex. He would choke the Coronet to death and swoop as Frankie Davis was drawing his last breath. That was his resolve.  - Crown for the Coronet

 

    If horses could count Singing Duke would have noticed that only 10 bins were laid out for the 12 stalls. He nodded anxiously as the stable-hand hustled towards him with a loaded bin, but squealed in protest and spun agitated loops of his box when he was bypassed for the grey next door. Feed is expensive and trainers rarely bother with an outcast’s last meal before they are cut from a stable - some to meet their fate in a killing pen: a steel bolt blasted into their brains. - If Horses Could Talk

 

  The more he drank of cheap booze the less he tolerated the taste, and the company, of "winos." But when he clambered onto the tracks and felt the vibrations of an oncoming train he longed for the numbing stupor that beckons courage. He would need to be TV's Man of Steel, "more powerful than a locomotive," when it struck. -  Lost Little Superman

 

  Owen Hankin hated boiled potatoes and stew. His father drank too much and his mother smoked too much and he really hated when they fought. But the shy boy never knew hatred of a fellow human being until his eighth year in 1956 when Tom Sheriff descended on Waverley Primary School, like a hawk swooping on a defenceless bunny. - Sheriff of Rottenham

 

  Nick Brady has been hurtling downhill on his brand new Cannondale Supersix but a blind bend in the road concealed a twisted three branch that had been brough down by high winds. The branch jammed hard between the whirling spokes of the front wheel. The rider had nowhere to go except into a heels-over-head somersault. "Bullet" Brady, as the media had dubbed him, was confident he could win gold in the 50 kilometre road race at the Olympics in Rio. Instead, he was headed for a catastrophic fall. - Crushed

 

  The thought of giving up Christmas and a Boxing Day Test Match to help care for an ageing mother-in-law who  could no long distinguish between Santa Claus and the Sugar Plum Fairy appalled the big man behind Brian Mueller Motors. Right on cue, before the first ball was bowled, Maggie made her entrance and slumped into Smokey's favourite chair as it circled menacingly. "Have you fed the dog yet?" Maggie asked. Who's gonna tell her the dog is a cat! - Nuts at Christmas

 

 

   Mickey Morris was a gardener, and a pretty nifty one at that, but it was hard work in the simmer of summer and the wintry of winter and so he latched onto a little larceny to supplement the meagre returns for his labours. Mickey's mentor was Crab Callow, sometimes know as Kit Kat callow because Crab has his paws into everything from purse-snatching to ram-raiding and would shakedown vending machines in his spare time angling for the chokkies to drop. - Other Side of the Fence

 

 

 

 

 

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