Friday 24 June 2011

The Second Valentine's Day Massacre

By Trevor Belshaw
Double Espresso with Whiskey Chaser

I climbed out of the model A Ford, closed the door behind me and tapped on the side of the car to signal Jimmy to pull away. We chose the Ford deliberately, a car so common that no one would remember. I would have liked to have travelled in style but we couldn’t risk Luigi’s Cadillac, someone would be sure to notice it.

I turned up my collar against the biting wind, pulled my hat down over my eyes and crossed the slush-covered street. It was quiet, but I was still wary. I looked around to check that I wasn’t being followed. I needn’t have worried, only a few people had braved the cold February night. I rapped on a glass panelled door and it was opened almost immediately by a guy wearing greasy trousers and a vest. He was sweating profusely, even though it was freezing cold in the hallway. He noticed my quizzical expression.

‘Laundry,’ he muttered. ‘We have a laundry at the back.’

I grunted and followed him upstairs to a room overlooking the street. My host nodded to the window and turned to leave, but before he reached the door I’d slipped the cheese wire round this throat. He died a minute or so later.

The dirty, single curtain was pulled across, so I stood to the side of the window and inched it open. Whoever had selected the vantage point had chosen well, I had a clear, unhindered view of the restaurant over the road. I pulled up a chair, lit a cigarette, checked my pocket watch and waited for Mary to signal.

At 8.30 I saw the light in the room at the side of the restaurant flick on and off twice. My audience had arrived, it was time to get the show on the road.

I took the stairs two at a time, then stood for a moment to give the adrenalin time to settle. Satisfied, I let myself out, checked the street as I crossed, then walked down the alley at the side of the restaurant.

Mary was at the back door with a smile on her lips and a glint in her eye. She looked good, even in her waitress clothes. She leaned forward and our lips touched. Her scent took me straight back to her bedroom, to one of the many nights we had spent together over the past few weeks. My eyes dropped to that wonderful chest, I felt the sap rise, I wanted her there and then, on the cold floor tiles.

Mary sensed what was going through my mind. ‘Easy Tiger.’

I nodded and forced my mind back to the job in hand.

‘They all here now?’

‘Yep. Frankie arrived through the back about ten minutes ago. He’s at the table with the others.’

‘No one else here?’

‘Only the cook, and he’s drunk.’

I eased open the door to the restaurant and peered in. They were sat in the centre, laughing, drinking the last whiskey they would ever drink.

‘Where is it?’ I whispered.

Mary dragged a case from under the worktable. I opened it and pulled out the Tommy gun. I pushed in a magazine, flicked off the safety catch and smiled at her.

‘OK, Honeybunch. Let’s get this thing done.’

Mary nodded and stood by the door. I winked and she threw it open.

I took a deep breath, stepped into the room and opened fire. The four diners were dead before they had a chance to turn their heads. I fired off another volley to make sure, then turned and hurried back to the prep room.

Mary was by the worktable, a Valentine card in her hand.

‘For you,’ she said.

I took the card and pushed it into my pocket, then pointed the gun at Mary.

‘Marco, no...’

I took in that look, the fear in those baby blue eyes and felt a sharp pang of regret, but pulled the trigger anyway. Mary was thrown across the room, almost cut in two by the hail of bullets.

The cook staggered in from the kitchen, a bottle of hooch in his right hand. I opened up and let him have it too. No witnesses, that’s just how it should be.

I stepped smartly out of the back door and walked further down the alley. I could hear raised voices coming from the front of the restaurant.

At the end of the alley I checked the street, then ran to the Ford where Jimmy was waiting, engine running. We drove to a quiet place by the Chicago river where I shot Jimmy in the back and tossed both him and the gun into the icy water.

I got back into the car, drove to a call box and rang Carla.

‘Hi, Carla, it’s done.’

‘You got them all.’

‘Every single one.’


‘Well, let’s just say there’s no one left to clean up.’

‘Great, Honey. Come over tonight. As it’s Valentine’s day, and you’ve been such a good boy, I have a nice little something for you.’

It was the way she emphasised the ‘little something.’ I grinned, as my hormones kicked in and visions of a long steamy night filled my head.

‘Give me an hour,’ I croaked.

Carla laughed. ‘You can have all night, baby.’

I put down the phone and hurried home. I needed to change my suit, get the smell of gunfire out of my nose.

I pulled off my jacket, took the card from my pocket and flipped it open. ‘Who loves ya baby,’ it read. I tossed it onto the table. It might come in useful later.

I ran a bath and thought about Carla. Sweet Carla, the best thing I’d ever seen on two legs. She only had to look at me to get me going. She had brains too, a broad didn’t get that far up the chain of command in Bugs Malone’s organisation without having brains. She was a tough cookie though, failure was punished hard. There were four or five guys wearing concrete under the new highway because they didn’t carry out her instructions to the letter.

Bugs wanted revenge for last year’s Valentine’s Day massacre, when most of his top people were butchered. It was down to Carla to make sure he got it.

I dried my hair on a towel and sprayed on some of the cologne that Mary gave me for Christmas. This was my big chance. I had proved myself as an asset, now I would have the chance to prove myself as a lover.

I stuffed Mary’s card into my pocket and hailed a cab to Carla’s place. She lived above one of the better speakeasies in the flash part of town. There was a lot of activity around the front of the building so I slipped round the back and climbed the iron staircase. The fire escape was open. I stopped on the top step when I heard voices.

‘You up for this?’ It was Carla.

‘Sure, baby, I’m ready.’

‘No mistakes, Greggo, take Mickey with you. Waste him, then drop him in the river. We need to clean up all the crap tonight.’

I cursed under my breath as I realised what Carla meant by ‘a little something.’ I took Mary’s card, tore it up and threw the pieces into the cold night, then pulled the pistol from my inside pocket and flicked off the safety.

I took a deep breath and stepped through the open door.

‘Who loves ya Baby,’ I roared.

Information about the author:

Tracy's Hot Mail Ebook, available now on Smashwords

Peggy Larkins War Ebook, available now. Kindle

Short stories available at Http:// via Iphone app.

Wordpress Blog:
Twitter @tbelshaw
Facebook Trevor Belshaw

The artist:

Marie Fullerton is a retired lecturer, with eight grown up children. She started painting 21 years ago and is completely self-taught. She has sold many paintings but has only recently tried illustrating. You can see her artwork on her Facebookpage.  

Wednesday 22 June 2011

Writer in Residence, Delicious for All LE 17 4EG

This first Writer in Residence event will be taking place Friday 1 July, at the Delicious for All Café, Lutterworth, LE17 4EG.
Gill James, aka Lian Childs, will be there, working on her writing but also free to:
Answer questions about her work
Discuss your work
Gather ideas for collaborative projects
Sell signed copies of her books
Enjoy what the café has to offer
Offer tips on getting published
Discuss the work of the Creative Café Project
Gill is also a lecturer in English and Creative Writing at the University of Salford. She also edits for Bridge House and The Red Telephone.
Be there or be square.
12.00 – 17.00
Look forward to seeing you!

Wednesday 15 June 2011

The Girl in the Wood

Alix Parker

Hot chocolate with whipped cream

The cowslips are growing. They’re only shoots now but in a matter of moments they’ll be knee high then they’ll reach the waist and with a soaking they’ll be higher than a man.

It’s as if you can see them growing, pushing through the earth pulling up to the light that here, is green. I love this time in the woods. After months of cold monochrome the green comes thundering in and time shows what it can do. After the cowslips, the brambles and stingers quickly follow and soon the paths will be hidden. Deep inside the wood I breathe in the scent of bark and leaves and earth and watch the light dappling, mapping the breeze. Sometimes I think there is someone beside me but whenever I turn to look there is no one there.

As a child I was always looking for the gingerbread house hidden deep within the trees but I never found it. Nor did I see the wolf but now I know it was he who snuffled up the bits of bread I left to lead me home.

It’s now when time here slips and nothing matters and the deep cool under the trees calls me to dream and remember a time long ago when I was just like you.

It’s hard to see at first. After the bright lights of the train and then the streets, the park is a mass of darkness. She is laughing and puts her arm through mine as she keeps up a constant chatter. I’m not listening. I know that under the bridge and across the field the woods are waiting. She’s talking about Billy and how he’d said he’d liked me. When I say I don’t care she stops and I can see her eyes laughing at me. ‘What? Don’t you like him?’

‘He’s just a boy.’

‘Yeah, but…’ She leans in close and I feel her breath on my face, hot and sweet. ‘But he likes you.’ I shake my head, so what? I want to say, who cares? But she’s started to rate things like that. I can’t help glancing around us. I can’t see anyone just the dark shapes of bushes and trees silhouetted against the sky. The rain blurs and I feel the darkness of the woods.

A low murmur of voices reaches us through the hiss of the rain. ‘Over there!’ she says and her grip tightens as she pulls me closer to the trees. Shapes appear, bodies, hoods, legs, arms, and then I see the group of kids around a bench. I hold back.

‘Is it them?’ We can’t see their faces. I strain to hear a voice I recognise.

It stops raining. A low mist hangs above the grass. There are kids everywhere hanging out in groups in the dark. Red points of light glow, illuminating their faces. They look like devils. It’s weird. I’m cold and bored. She’s having a great time sitting on someone’s lap glugging blue liquid from a bottle. I sit a little way back. People talk to me but they’re talking crap and I can’t be bothered to listen. I don’t care what they think of me. Someone passes me a zoot. I shake my head. She takes it instead and inhales deeply. She makes a big play of blowing out the smoke and whoops with laughter as she falls back. The boy catches her and she passes it to me. ‘Go on,’ she says, ‘or are you scared?’

‘No.’ Even though I don’t want to I put it to my lips and suck in. The smoke burns. It makes me want to be sick but I won’t give her the satisfaction of showing it.

They are shrieking with laughter now, the people around me. I feel light headed and nauseous. I want to be on my own so I wander away from the group across the field. It’s beautiful out here. It reminds me of being little, walking home from the child minder in the dark, holding hands with Mum while she points out the moon and the stars. There are none tonight. It was a time when I believed in faeries. Mum said they lived in the woods but I should never go there alone, especially not at night. She said not all faeries are good. It used to make me shiver with fear and excitement and I’d grip her hand tighter and ask if we could walk closer to the trees. She always laughed and said no.

She’s not here tonight and so I go closer. The darkness is thick between the trees and I fancy that her stories are true and I think of the oak man caught within the trunk of the tree. If you look closely you can see his face. Tonight I wonder if he’s walking out, free at last.

As I stare into the trees I think I see lights dancing between the branches. I catch my breath, what are they? Fireflies? I thought they only existed in stories but I can see them right there with my own eyes. One comes out from the trees and almost lands on my outstretched hand. I try to grab it but it zooms away and I follow it.

I am in the middle of the woods when I realise I shouldn’t be here alone.

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to walk away and not go back? I wonder that now. Black spots swarm in front of my eyes. The light ones have gone. I feel his weight. His hand crushes against my mouth and I realise that if I go back now I will have to face him. So instead I run.

By the bench my friend pulls away from the boy whose lap she’s sitting on. ‘Hey where’s Anna?’ she asks. Someone passes the bottle to her. ‘Ah!’ She smiles wickedly, ‘I know. Billy!’

‘What?’ Billy leans forward on the bench. She looks at him and turns back to the boy she’s been kissing. ‘Oh, not him then,’ she says. Billy blushes- glad that it’s dark and no one can see.

‘Does she like me?’

‘Yeah Billy,’ she laughs, ‘she likes you.’

Billy is pacing round the bench. ‘It’s okay!’

My friend rolls her eyes, ‘she must have gone home, leave her, she didn’t want to come anyway. She’ll be all right.’

When we were little we ran through these woods holding hands. We had wings on our backs and wands in our hands. Mum took a photograph. Backlit by the sun we looked like we were glowing. Where are the faeries now?

My phone flashes a message. I see its screen glow green and light up the leaves that surround it. A message. I think but I don’t reach for it. Another message flashes. Later my favourite tune plays out through the trees startling the mice and rats that scuttle through the brambles. It plays and plays but I can’t answer. I know it will be my mum and my heart aches. I want to go back but now it is too late.

They come through the trees. Creeping slowly stopping at every sound. I see that they are more than lights they are people. I think that if I move my hand they will vanish only my hand won’t move. They come closer and whisper strange things I don’t understand as they gather around me joining hands to make a ring and everything changes.

Somehow I change. I am like them, made of light. They take my hand and lead me into the dance. I see Hansel and Gretel. We eat sweets from the gingerbread house and laugh at the witch inside. I see a green man whose face is made from leaves and I think, so it’s true. I watch out for the wolf.

The acorns that fell that autumn have grown now. I lay here perfectly still hearing the plants sucking the moisture, the worms grinding through the soil. If I listen carefully I can hear the breeze in the grass and higher in the trees I hear the birds singing to the day. Sometimes I feel the warmth of the sun as it penetrates the leafy bower. Sometimes I hear the shouts and songs of children playing and I dream that I found my way.


Alix has had several stories published and has worked in theatre and film. She also works under the pseudonym Fox E Parker with co writer Sue Eves.

Monday 13 June 2011


by Louise Hastings


I meet him at the door and slowly walk in, my thoughts as complex and loud as music. The notes jangle to the speed of my spinning world as he ventures into me, bravely tearing at flesh that is made painful by love. Indigestible anger rips out of my sides, spreading green bile across the floor. My senses are quickening as the fingers of his mind start to undress me. His arms are at the embrace of my longing as he gives himself to me and leans into my future. He shows me how the darkness had rolled on top of the light; points out the stars that were burned by the sun.

I am afraid to touch him in case my hands move right through him. I am ashamed to meet his gaze, afraid to reveal the dreams that squirm through my brain like dark anti-matter hiding under lifted rocks. I am in turmoil, but this is the way to the past. In time it will dissolve, grow small and still as the surface of a pond. By remembering I am learning to forget.

There is something in him that intrigues me, something I don't yet understand. How he gives of himself so freely, yet expects nothing in return; how he holds onto joy during moments in time when the spark seems like it is dying; carrying me along on the cloud burst, away from the grey and mechanic, into the poetic and extraordinary. A place where the ice is melting, where the fire has raged through the forests, where the rivers flow on like electricity.

My spirit is gradually unfolding into being, knitted into the fabric of my hopes and and desires, glistening like dew drops in the morning air. I feel as though I could fly, rise above mountains, soar over jagged rocks. Finally I am shaking off the fear of living and turning it into love. My every day misery is no longer acceptable. I want to feel the icy blast of ocean waters on my skin, feel the unseen fingers brushing through my hair, feel your gaze warming my blood.

I am left exhausted by the flashing images that crowd around like ancient trees inside my head. He is breathing his wholeness into me and I am drinking deeply of his gentle soul. One day soon, I know I will stand at his door dripping with new memories, wearing a flimsy dress that's soaked through by the rain.


Louise is based in the beautiful county of Somerset, from where she gains much of her inspiration for her writing and poetry. She is interested in the inner workings of the human psyche, the human mind, body and soul. You can see more of her work a

Monday 6 June 2011

Smiles and Heartaches

by Louise Charles
Double Espresso

His smile made my heart ache. The first time he asked me out for a date. His head lowered, kicking at a spot on the ground. He looked up, his eyes fixed on mine and I was his. He took me ice-skating. I was hopeless, like a new born fawn with legs that wouldn’t hold me, too nervous to ask for help. He caught me and captured my heart.

He brings me tea, steaming hot.

‘Wait a while,’ he says. ‘It will soon cool down. What would you like for breakfast?’

I don’t care. What’s the point in eating?

He blows on the cup, tiny droplets of tea spatter my face.

‘Sip,’ he says. I keep my lips shut. He places a tender kiss on my neck.

I can hear him humming in the bathroom, tap running, lathering his face and the rasp of the blade as it crosses his skin. I once went everywhere he did. I urge myself to move, to lift myself up. I would give anything to go to him, wrap my arms around his waist, lay my cheek against his warm shoulder and breathe him in. Minty toothpaste and sandalwood smells. Fresh. Clean.

He is dressed. He wears blue jeans, a tangerine coloured shirt and a cream, cotton jacket. A passionflower tucked in the buttonhole.

He’s still humming.

‘My Heart Will Always Go On.’ Our wedding song – words that have represented our love until now.

My gaze is drawn to the deep plum satin that falls from his hands like a soft curtain.

‘Do you know what day it is?’

I blink. Yes, I remember.

‘It’s our anniversary.’ He smiles. My heart aches.

Ten years. Just me, him, and two strangers for witnesses. I wore a simple satin shift the colour of aubergine. The one that he has now placed across the bed.

It won’t fit.

‘It will fit you perfectly.’ He slips my nightgown off and I yearn for his touch, but we don’t - not anymore. The soft, cool material caresses my skin as he lifts me up for a fleeting moment so that the skirt falls and wraps around my ankles.

I wore no shoes.

‘You were barefoot. And beautiful.’

He moves a strand of hair from my face and a single tear falls onto my cheek.

‘Me. You. Us.’ He holds up three fingers, like the three cream candles we lit to symbolise our union. They had fluttered with life, with hope, with our future.

But that’s all gone. Extinguished like a flame.

He grabs my shoulders as he lowers me back against the pillows. ‘Don’t go.’
I have to. There is nothing here for me now. Nothing for you now. No ‘us’ now.

‘We can see this thing through,’ he pleads, ‘together we can beat this.’

No, we cannot. I cannot. Trapped in a body that no longer works. I have to let you go. You don’t know how much I want to stay. How much I long to tell you. How much I long for you to hear me. But you can’t. I’m shouting but you can’t hear me.

He lies by my side, gathering me towards him and holds my gaze.

I close my eyes, listen to my heartbeat, and feel his breath on my lips.

One. Two. Three. Stop.

No more smiles. No more heartache.

About Louise:

Louise Charles (aka Jo Lamb)


Website: Louise Charles (

Check out my online Writing Community at Writers Abroad